In recent years big cats have been seen, particularly around Yetminster and the Blackmore Vale area. Farmers have reported finding half-eaten calves and partially eaten dead lambs and ewes which are believed to be the work of the so-called Beast of Yetminster.
In a new book Dark Dorset, Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror, authors Robert J. Newland and Mark J. North say big cat sightings have now become more commonplace than those of phantom black dogs.
The earliest known record of a big cat came in 1907 in a manuscript by Robin Young entitled Reminiscences of Sturminster Newton. The authors write: “He recalls a wild and savage monstrous cat, with eyes as big as tea saucers, which is said to haunt the top of Newton Hill beside the ruined castle at Sturminster Newton.
“Local people were so afraid of encountering this creature that they would take the low road just to avoid it.”
In their new book the authors also deal with tales of sea monsters, crop circles, spontaneous combustion, witches, strange storms, items falling from the sky and mysterious flying objects.
The book covers a wide range of mysteries and is littered with anecdotes from both modern times and years gone by.
It does not try to explain the tales and anyone with an interest in the darker, more mysterious side of the county is sure to find it a good read.
The authors conclude: “When the summer sun shines down on the Dorset countryside making it warm and beautiful then of course it is safe to laugh at such fanciful stories.
“But when the grey mist veils the downs and the winds roar, when Dorset is alive with hidden torment, then perhaps it is the time to think a little more seriously about such things.
“Is anyone wise or brave enough to say these tales have not, at least, a grain of truth in them?”
Review by Tim Edmonds, Western Gazette, 4th April 2002