The 'Bristol crocodile' and other strange beasts

Jun 27, 2014

From the Beast of Bodmin to Sandringham's 'small lion', Britain is crawling with exotic creatures

Tamara Blanco /SWNS via Twitter

After four months apparently spent lurking in the murky waters of the River Avon, a creature known as the "Bristol crocodile" has resurfaced this week.

A bus driver in Bristol first spotted a long, six-foot object moving slowly down the river in February, prompting a police operation to look for the alleged crocodile. The subsequent search proved fruitless. 

Then, this week, 29 year-old jogger Tamara Blanco said she had seen the creature floating along the river. "I thought 'Oh my God, is it a crocodile?'," she told the Daily Telegraph.

Three signs warning about the risk of crocodiles have been placed along the River Avon in light of the sightings.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: "It's not unknown for exotic animals to escape from either private properties or zoos."

The Bristol crocodile is just one among several unusual – or possibly mythical – beasts sighted in recent years:

Essex lion

Two police helicopters were called after holidaymakers in the village of St Osyth, Essex ran screaming from what they believed to be an escaped "lion". As blurry photos and a video of the creature emerged, local residents were advised to stay indoors. The animal, described as having a distinctive tail and tan-coloured fur, but was later revealed to be a large ginger domestic cat called Teddy Bear.

The Beast of Burnham Thorpe
The Beast of Burnham Thorpe

Residents in Norfolk were alarmed by sightings in 2011 of a creature resembling a "small lion", allegedly seen near the Queen's estate at Sandringham. Some experts believe that it could have been a Scottish wildcat, known to be dangerous to humans, while others suggested that it too could be a large domestic cat.

Beast of Bodmin

Sightings of the Beast of Bodmin date back to the 1990s, when a large wildcat began to be seen around Cornwall. In 2009, a couple in Bodmin believed they had videoed the creature in their back garden, but the animal was later identified as a palm-civet. The mammal is more typically found in Himalayan forests.


Numerous sightings of panthers and lynx are reported each year, leading many to believe that several big cats roam the British countryside. The beast of Banff – described as a large animal, like a black panther – was spotted walking across a path by a terrified holidaymaker in Scotland in 2007. It was spotted at least once more by a local resident, who said it was 5ft long and 3ft tall.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Read more: