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The Top 10 TV Shows about Big Cats in Britain

by Leo Lambert 2 years ago in tv review
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To many of us, there are few ideas more exciting than the notion that big cats may be living and breeding in the British countryside; so sit back and relax as we count down the 10 best TV shows examining the mysterious big cats of Britain...

Watch the trailer for 'The Unexplainers' episode investigating the reports of big cats in Wales.

10 - MonsterQuest (Black Beast of Exmoor, 2008, History Channel).

This documentary series focused each episode on the hunt for a different 'monster'. In the episode titled the 'Black Beast of Exmoor', the history of the subject is explored in detail, giving the casual viewer a decent explanation of the British big cat phenomenon and its origins. This TV show only ranks in at number 10, as it was let down by the limited field research expedition of the episode, which by comparison to other episodes of the series looking for Bigfoot or Sasquatch was extremely weak and lacklustre. The show did not provide the viewer with much of a conclusion, and some extremely good video evidence was disputed by an “expert” whose interpretation of it was at best ambiguous and at worst contradictory.

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9 - Animal X (Episode 10, 1997, Discovery Channel).

The ‘Beast of Bodmin’ has long been held as an iconic example of the British big cat, with it becoming embedded in our popular culture over the decades since the first reports began. This brief examination of the subject in this TV show leaves the viewers salivating for more, but uses music and imagery to build suspense and an air of mystery. The presentation of multiple short sequences within each episode, each looking at a different animal, prohibits a detailed or exhaustive history being given, but may be preferable for those viewers with a short attention span.

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8 - Tomorrow's World (On the Trail of the Big Cat, 1986, BBC).

An old documentary, but interesting all the same, with a feature examining some seminal genetic research into unusual large black cats found with increasing frequency in Scotland; the research findings presented here are a revelation and prove that the Scottish Wildcat population is ultimately threatened by an encroaching population of domestic moggies whose repeated hybridisation is diluting the gene pool of the pure-bred Scottish Wildcats, whilst simultaneously bringing about a range of unusual physical and behavioural character traits within subsequent generations of offspring.

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7 - A Lion Called Christian (2009, 2 Entertain).

Whilst not strictly a documentary about the big cats of Britain, this feature does two things of importance which means it cannot be omitted from this list; firstly, it does feature a big cat, and secondly, it highlights beautifully the myriad of pitfalls associated with Britain’s historic trade in exotic animals which spiralled out of control during the 1960s and 1970s. This documentary became very well-known after a brief montage clip went viral on the internet several years ago, and ever since has remained high on the profile of those with an interest in the mystery of Britain’s big cats, due to its commercial success and the fact that it so clearly evidences that members of the public could legally buy large cats (and other potentially dangerous animals) without a license in Britain.

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6 - Big Cat Track (2006, Animal Planet).

Here is a documentary presented by Ian Maxwell, an acclaimed animal tracker with years of experience in Africa. This show starts out in Africa, where the methods and skills of animal tracking are succinctly showcased, before changing locations to the south of England to employ his proven techniques with a view to solving the mystery of the big cats of Britain. There are great tips, for would-be enthusiasts and researchers, with some incredible video evidence, which seems to support the case that leopards are living and breeding in the wilds of the British countryside.

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5 - The Unexplainers (Episode 1, 2019, BBC).

If you are seeking comedy and light-hearted stupidity then look no further! This fun ‘mockumentary’ series following Welsh rap legend ‘Eggsy’ and a sceptical PE teacher called Mike, will provide you with endless laughs as the hapless duo drag each other into a world of mystery and confusion. In the first episode of the TV mini-series the boys head into the depths of the British wilderness to carry out their very own investigation into the strange big cats of Britain. Using an over-sized mousetrap, with a beef burger as bait, the boys are poised for success in their mission to find the blood-thirsty beast responsible for the growing number of dead sheep and livestock on the local farms…

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4 - Mysterious Universe (On the Trail of Big Cats, 1994, Yorkshire Television).

This programme has aged somewhat since its release over two decades ago, but nonetheless is quite remarkable in places, and some would go so far to say that this is Arthur C. Clarke at his best! His documentary crew arrive in Cornwall with astonishingly perfect timing, and as they have literally just set up their equipment and start their cameras rolling, a big black cat makes a stunning appearance right in front of their lenses. The footage was identified by experts from London Zoo as likely being an Asian Leopard, and as such is a great example of long-forgotten or overlooked evidence which confirms that big cats are, or at least, have been here in recent years in Britain.

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3 - Monster Hunters (Alien Big Cats, 2002, Gryphon Productions).

In this documentary, viewers are introduced to Quentin Rose, an animal expert who studies big cats in the British countryside. He presents a range of evidence for there being big cats in Britain, and his testimony is supported by the police. As the episode progresses it becomes clear that Quentin is most likely the first respected government official to be employed to exclusively utilise scientific methods to calculate the first accurate empirical data relating to the numbers of big cats living wild in Britain. Sadly Quentin is no longer with us today, so his wealth of knowledge is largely forgotten, but lives on preserved in this stunning documentary. By the end of the show, viewers are left with little room to doubt Quentin’s authority and the shocking revelation that big cats are breeding in Britain, and that it is only a matter of time before a human-being ends up on their dinner menu…

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2 - X-Creatures (Big Cats in a Little Country, 1998, BBC).

Hosted by Chris Packham, this programme hits every item on the tick-list mantra of the BBC, being informative, educational and entertaining in equal abundance. The audience is taken on a historical tour of the colourful history of Britain’s exotic pet trade, and the subsequent introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976. The knock-on effects of this are explained and a clear impression develops, as to how and why the population of Britain’s big cats came to be living loose and wild in the moors and woodlands of this little island. The risk to livestock and humans is considered and again, viewers are given privileged access to the mind and insight of Quentin Rose and his seminal work on this subject.

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1 - Britain's Big Cat Mystery (2020, Dragonfly Films Video Production).

Created and directed by Matt Everett, with support from famed big cat expert, podcaster and author Rick Minter, this award-winning documentary is without doubt the most detailed and well-researched on the subject. The most technologically advanced field-research expedition ever undertaken to examine this subject is carried out by an expert team comprising of zoologists, animal trackers, search and rescue personnel and hunters; each equipped with night-vision, thermal cameras, camera traps, bait and a range of other gadgets and tech which they demonstrate for the viewer at home. Great lengths have clearly been taken to track down key witnesses from historic events, so that rumour and myth can be substantiated with fact. Long forgotten archive footage has been uncovered, along with new evidence which mounts an incredibly strong case that the big cats of Britain present us with a very real zoological issue. The testimony of key characters involved in the releasing of big cats into the British countryside in the 1970s is heard in detail for the first time in several decades, whilst a range of forensic evidence is also found and reviewed.

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Leo Lambert

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