Beast of Gevaudan

The beast of Gevaudan is a man-eating wolf-like animal that resided in the Margeride Mountains of Gevaudan from 1764 to 1767. It was described as having remarkable teeth and long tail. Its fur was tinted white and emitted an unbearable odor.

It was said that its victims were killed by the beast ripping at the throat. An estimated 210 attacks were documented; all were men that resulted in 113 deaths and 49 injuries with 98 of the victims partly eaten. Many of the attacks happened while victims were tending cattle.

The army, civilians, nobles, and even a number of royal huntsmen joined a search for this creature.

On January 12, 1765 Jacques Portefaix had an encounter with the beast. He and seven friends were attacked but they drove the beast away by staying grouped together. King Louis XV sent professional wolf-hunters to kill the beast. On February 17, 1765 they arrived in Clermont Ferrand with eight trained bloodhounds.

For months the wolf hunt proceeded with many kills believing it to be the beast. However, the attacks continued and by June the wolf hunters were replaced by Francois Antoine, the king’s weapons bearer and Lieutenant. He arrived on June 22, 1765.

Antoine had killed three grey wolves, the last one slain on September 21, 1767. It measured 31 inches high, five foot and seven inches long and weighed 130 pounds. In an official statement, he said, “we declare by the present report signed from our hand, we never saw a big wolf that could be compared to this one. Which is why we estimate this could be the fearsome beast that caused so much damage.”

Because of this, the creature was named the culprit in the previous attacks. Some of the attack survivors recognized the wounds on the creature from the survivors defending themselves. The wolf was stuffed and Antoine received a large sum of money and a hero’s status.

On December 2, 1769, another beast appeared severely injuring two men followed by several other attacks resulting in deaths.

On June 19, 1770, Jean Chastel, a local hunter claimed to have killed the beast, reportedly with a handmade silver bullet. The contents of the beast’s stomach contained human remains, even though no one had actually seen the body. From that moment on there had been no more attacks.

The actual identity of the beast is unexplained, but several theories have been presented. Everything from exaggerations to werewolves, and in a book by Jay M. Smith, Monsters of the Gevaudan, it is most likely a pack of wolves that caused the attacks.

One hypothesis incurs that the beasts were a cross between a domestic dog and a wild wolf because of the coloration and size. Hyenas have been dismissed as the culprit because the beast had 42 teeth whereas hyenas have 34.

There have been several books, movies, games, and shows relating to the Beast of Gevaudan:

*Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.

*Patricia Briggs novel Hunting Ground are two books based on this creature.

*In October 2009 a history channel documentary aired called The Real Wolfman.

*A film from 2001 called Brotherhood of the wolf was based on the legend.

*In episode six of the series Teen Wolf, Allison’s werewolf hunting family was responsible for killing of the Beast.

*In the DVD board game, Atmosfear, the blue werewolf is named Gevaudan and can be used as a player token.

Image Caption: 18th-century engraving of La Bete du Gevaudan. Credit: Wikipedia (public domain)