Saturday, 28 January 2017

Black Puma Pelts for a Few Bawbees

Black panthers and pumas have been roaming Northern Ireland’s countryside since the mid-1990s. They’re very real, say the authorities, and were released by a mysterious collector. He’s been at this for some time, if there’s any truth in this story from 1937.
The Whig’s editor questioned the story because there were no reports of the cat’s “depredations.” Today, when we may have as many as seven big cats here, there are very few reports of depredations. That doesn’t stop the PSNI and the USPCA believing the cats are still out there.
It was only a few days ago that we heard rumour of a Black Puma having been shot in Co. Armagh – an incredulous rumour be it said, but curiosity caused us to make some inquiries. The story is that the animal was shot out in the open, then skinned and the skin sent off to Glasgow, from whence came the determination of species and a certain cash payment for a very fine pelt – something in the neighbourhood of three pounds.
So far so good – very good for him who slayed the animal – but the point arises as to how an American wild cat came to be wandering about in Co. Armagh, and why none of its depredations had been reported? We know there is a Black Puma in the Belfast Zoo, and a more wicked looking creature it would be difficult to find, though at the same time he is not unhandsome. Being safely behind bars he could not be the Co. Armagh animal, and nobody in the county had ever heard of anyone keeping a captive B.P. as a pet. However, there he was, but, strange to relate, there are no stories of sheep killing or dog slaughter: a puma has to live, and one may be quite sure he would speedily and frequently find his prey. Well, he simply did not, and the identity of the animal (unfortunately now unsupported by any tangible evidence) topple to the ground. There is little doubt that the victim was simply a good old black tomcat which had gone wild, as this undependable feline frequently does. On such occasions cats become larger, fiercer, and of finer coat, especially in winter; it is merely a case of reversion to type.
We have known of many such cats – big handsome fellows, living chiefly on field mice and birds. There were a couple of which we retain a lively recollection that lived in the innermost recesses of a store in a fishmonger’s shop. Curiously enough, they never ate the fish or trussed fowl, preferring to exist by their own prowess among the rat and mice population; pretty good proof of their reversion.
What is difficult to understand in the case of the Armagh “Black Puma” is any Scot parting with quite a few “bawbees” for the pelt of an Irish tomcat! Strange, but seemingly true.
  • Belfast Telegraph, 25 September 2003
  • Northern Whig, 12 March 1937

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