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Long-Tailed Bobcats?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 9th, 2008

mlion

In Amazing Indeed: Strange Events in the Black Forest Vol. 2, Robert R. Lyman, Sr., 1973, The Potter Enterprise, Coudersport, PA, on page 70, can be found this intriguing passage:

Bobcats with Long Tails September 1951.

Strange animals appear at times and no one can say for sure what they are. Such an animal was caught in a fox trap south of Wharton by Lynn Wycoff. Since it was an unusual specimen, Wykoff [name is rendered both ways in the article] decided to keep it alive. With the help of his father, he managed to free it from the trap and get it into a steel bear cage. He was scratched on the face and severely bitten on a thumb.

Hundreds of persons saw the captured animal but nobody seemed to know what it was. All agreed that it was a nasty tempered snarling beast.

The Wykoffs named her Bertha because the father said, “I once knew a womn by that name who had a temper just like this animal.”

“Sure, I’d call it a wildcat and let it go at that,” said Lynn, “But who ever saw a wildcat with a tail like that!” The caudal appendage was about one foot long. Prior to 1840, Burrell Lyman of Roulet could have answered Lynn. One year he killed 2 bobcats with long tails. At least he said they were bobcats.

One aspect of the cat’s behavior intrigued many who saw it. Regardless of the number facing it, the cat wheeled and followed anybody moving around the cage. “Guess Bertha just doesn’t trust people,” said Lynn.

Three months after this animal was captured, Lynn said, “It is a big cat now. Nobody can tell me that it is a bobcat. Their color lightens as they grow older but this animal’s color has not changed”. Is it any better tempered? “Not a bit, if anything it’s worse.”

The tail of this “long-tailed bobcat” was said to be a foot long. Common bobcats (Lynx rufus) have a a stubby 4 to 7 inch (10–18 cm) tail.

Was it really a bobcat? Or a surviving “Eastern Panther” (Puma concolor couguar), a puma thought to be extinct in the East by 1951? Or some other mystery felid?

mtlioncub

It should be noted that the young of the puma, the mountain lion cub (above from here) does display spots like a bobcat and does have a long tail. Perhaps Mr. Wykoff caught a young puma in his trap, and as mentioned, when it grew up, it lost its spots.

pumacub

A puma cub (above) can look a lot like a bobcat (below).

bobcat

Or perchance, this area of Pennsylvania has a strange genetic mutation: bobcats with long tails?

My thanks to Chris Woodyard at Invisible Ink Books for reminding me of this passage in Robert R. Lyman, Sr.’s classic book.

Loren Coleman – has written 5491 posts on this site.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


16 Responses to “Long-Tailed Bobcats?”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    If he wasn’t someone who traps on a regular basis, I’d say he just was someone who didn’t know better (about anything). But the fact that it sounds like he was a man who knew his critters, I doubt that he would have mistakenly called a puma cub a bobcat. Their facial features are nothing alike. The baby puma has the pointy ears and early on they get the hair that hangs off the cheeks. Long tailed bobcats wouldn’t be much of a stretch. I believe a mating of a bobcat and a domestic cat with strong genetics could produce at least one with an average length “cat” tail. Unless the pumas cross bred as their numbers dwindled. That could explain alot.

  2. Aztec Raptor responds:

    It may be a new form of Bobcat that may have a longer tail then a normal Bobcat.

  3. Pudge responds:

    I saw a pic of a similar cat a few years ago in a Full Cry magazine. It was treed and killed in OK in the 60′s or 70′s. The hunters thought it was a bobcat till they shot it out.

  4. Shane Durgee responds:

    I’d go as far as to say a puma cub looks nothing like an adult bobcat save for some markings.

    I believe a mating of a bobcat and a domestic cat with strong genetics could produce at least one with an average length “cat” tail.

    I immediately thought this as well.

  5. sschaper responds:

    Bobcats have been known to interbreed with farm cats (rarely). Cats are another example of a single species where various breeds have been given the species label.

    Then there is the Maine Coon Cat, the origins of which are not entirely clear – some suggest they came from Norwegian Forest Cats brought to NA by the Norse. That seems like a stretch, except for the similarities between the breeds. A Maine Coon Cat is larger and more intelligent than your average farm cat, and they can be trained to fetch. Being larger, mating with bobcats would be, I think, more likely than with typical farm cats.

    A bobbed tail on a cat (bobcats, lynx, manx) is likely due to a genetic defect, a loss of information that regulates the growing of vertebrae. If that were overcome in some fashion, in the womb, you could have a long-tailed bobcat.

  6. kittenz responds:

    Yes, that is what I think too: that the long-tailed animals were probably bobcat/domestic hybrids.

    I suppose it’s not impossible for bobcats to occasionally be born with long tails; after all, even people are occasionally born with tails. But I think that a bobcat/domestic hybrid is much more likely.

    Perhaps it was a very young bobcat? The tails of bobcat kittens look longer, for their body size, than do the tails of adults. shumway10973 has a good point though: if the guy was a veteran trapper he would surely know the difference in an adult bobcat and a kitten

  7. kittenz responds:

    On the other hand, I really like the idea of another mystery felid in North America :-).

  8. Loren Coleman responds:

    Bobcat X domestic cat = Maine Coon Cat is a myth.

  9. MattBille responds:

    Chad, as I recall, had some other sources about cats like this and suggested N. America once had another small cat, recently gone extinct. There’s nothing outlandish about the notion – small cats don’t have the same problems big ones do with overlapping ranges. The idea of an occasional bobcat with a long tail is perhaps more probable, but certainly less intriguing.

  10. cryptidsrus responds:

    Bobcat/Domestic cat hybrid. Agree with the others.

  11. Munnin responds:

    MattBille responds: “Chad, as I recall, had some other sources about cats like this and suggested N. America once had another small cat, recently gone extinct.”

    Well, there’s the Jaguarundi, which can still be found in Texas and New Mexico, although it is rare nowadays. Apparently, like the Jaguar, it was once more widely distributed in North America. I see the genus listed, variously, as Felis, Puma, and Herpailurus. One source identifies the subspecies found in North America as Puma Yaguarondi Cacomitli. Having personally seen live individuals of this species in captivity, I can’t imagine that they could be mistaken for a long-tailed bobcat. They don’t look anything like a bobcat to me, and probably not to most people. I could easily imagine one being mistaken for a feral domestic kitty though.

  12. dtart responds:

    I am a resident of the area mentioned in this article. Regardless of what the mystery cat’s true idenity was in 1951, there is a present day mystery in my geographic region begging to be answered. I know of, too many to mention, reliable witnesses of mountain lions in my area. These are honest people who grew up in the area, know all the local wildlife and most are avid hunters/trappers. Last year there were local photos of a mountain lion printed in the Bradford Era newspaper. The photos were shown to an expert and they were positively identified as a mountain lion. They are here living in the black forest area of PA!

  13. m_e_737 responds:

    I live in a heavily wooded area in NC and 4 different people have seen an animal described as having a feline type appearence with pointed ears, a long bushy tail that stands up and a humped rear section of its body and dark in color. We see fox bobcat, deer, racoons and even black bear here quite often so we would easily recognize any of those. Has anyone else seen anything that matched this description?

  14. Munnin responds:

    m_e_737 responds:

    “…a feline type appearence with pointed ears, a long bushy tail that stands up and a humped rear section of its body and dark in color.”

    What size animal do these folks report? Without knowing that, this could possibly describe the American Mink, Mustela vison. According to the web site of the American Society of Mammologists, these are uncommon, but distributed throughout the state of North Carolina.

    Then again, most – but not all – of the images I can find of the American Mink do not show it with its tail standing up. Nor is the tail particularly “bushy,” although it is covered with fur and not naked like the tails of beavers or possums, etc.

    Interesting.

  15. m_e_737 responds:

    Hey Munnin,

    I myself finally saw this animal since I posted my last comment. It was black with a long tail (maybe 15″) but not as bushy as the others described and the tail didn’t stand up but the animal kept it straight out parallel to the ground. It was about the size of a 50lb dog It has pointed ears, a feline type face, long muscular body and was not easily spooked like say a fox would be, I didn’t notice a hump in the body but it might have been in a different pose when the others saw it like maybe stalking something. I would describe it as a cross between a bobcat with a long tail and a cougar but black in color. For years I have probably spent as much time in the NC woods as I have indoors and have never before seen anything like it. I hope this gives you more to go on. I am trying to borrow a infrared camera so I can get a good pic of it since it mostly seems to be active after dark.

  16. arielphf responds:

    On Monday (July 13, 2010) in a 6-7 mile stretch of a very isolated hollow with an old tram road on it in Clinton Co. PA, I saw what looked to be a long tailed bobcat. I got a very good look at it though the picture I took with my cell phone is nearly useless.

    It walked into a cleared area across the hollow below me, about 80 yards away and at first I thought it was a deer from the color, but its movement quickly informed me that it was a cat. What struck me was that it appeared to be a solid color, with no spots at all, though when it turned its head away, I could clearly see the white and black patches of a bobcat on the backs of its ears. It was too far away for me to see tufts at the tips.

    What struck me the most was that its tail was unusually long for a bobcat – about 12 – 18″ long from the look of him – with dark specks or perhaps spots nearer the tip which were the only dark, aside from the backs of the ears, on his whole body. My companion and I stopped on the trail and waited to see where the cat was going and watched as he moved into the taller vegetation beside the creek. I could see he was crossing the creek because the plants on the banks were moving.

    Me came into the clear about 50 yards closer to me and continued ambling even closer, clearly not aware my companion and I were there. I got a really good look at him then. There were no spots on his body or legs. It appeared his whole body was an even dun color though both the cat and my companion and I were in the shadow of the trees by that point and faint spots might not have been visible.

    He came as close as about 50 feet before I decided to speak up from my whispering and alert him to our presence (my companion was getting nervous!). Instantly, he froze and locked eyes on us. His face gave me the distinct impression of a lion; solid, square, dun colored, no markings at all, and seemingly lacking the cheek fur I associate with a bobcat, though if he had ear tufts, I probably still wasn’t close enough to see them. He was still enough long enough for me to snap some shots of him with my cell phone camera, but then he started to twitch and wiggle his butt in a move instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever seen a housecat getting ready to pounce on a mouse. My companion was getting very nervous by this point and I figured it might be better if I ended the encounter. I didn’t really think he was going to come bounding up the hill to the tram road we were walking on, but he looked so lion-like that the thought did occur to me. Of course my shout sent him bounding up the hollow exactly as common sense would have suggested it would.

    He was a big animal – from shoulder to butt about 3 feet long – and his face had none of the strips of black I would associate with a puma nor any of the spots and stripping I would associate with a bobcat. I’m still fairly certain he was just an unusual bobcat, but I’d really be interested in seeing this thing more closely if anyone ever caught it.



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