‘Big cats’ are perhaps the most famous subject of Australian cryptozoology (the study of mythical creatures). Since the 19th century, thousands of reports describing large, feline like creatures have given rise to legends including the Gippsland phantom cat, the Blue Mountains Panther, the Tantanoola Tiger, and the big cats of the Sunshine Coast. Victoria is a hot spot for big cat folklore with sightings reported all over the state (save the semi-arid north-west), but none are as well-known (or as studied) as the Grampians puma. For more than 60 years, the Grampians puma has been a beloved campfire tale and when you look out over the wild, rocky terrain of the Grampians, it’s not hard to imagine a secretive cat thriving in the thick bushland. This week, we take a closer look at this fascinating piece of Victorian folklore.
The most popular version of the Grampians puma legend is that the animals were former mascots for the US Army. In 1942 during the Second World War, servicemen from the tank division were stationed in the Grampians area where they had five ‘panthers’ and ‘pumas’ as mascots. Supposedly, the Australian Quarantine Services told the servicemen that they had to dispose of the animals but rather than killing them, the servicemen chose to release the cats into bushland in the Grampians. Over the years these secretive cats bred and multiplied, thriving off the abundant wildlife in the Grampians national park as well as livestock.
Whilst there is some inconclusive evidence (paw marks, livestock attacks, hair, scat) that makes it impossible to conclusively say that there isn’t a puma population in the Grampians, the absence of any conclusive primary evidence means it’s also impossible to confirm that there is one. Feral cats are the most popular explanation for the numerous sightings of big cats in Victoria over the past century. Domestic cats may have been introduced to Australia with the Dutch explorers in the early 17th century and over the centuries, have grown to enormous sizes with some specimens caught measuring up to 1.5 meters in length.
Want to hunt?
If cryptozoology in the Australian bush piques your curiosity, consider coming on one of Melbourne on the Move’s Grampians day tours. Our tour stops at many locations where sightings have been reported including Reid’s Lookout and Halls Gap where you can stop for coffee at The Black Cat Café and look at the many newspaper clippings and photographed sightings of the mysterious creature. If you do happen to spot the puma on our tour, you can report it to the Australian Rare Fauna Research Association.
Book your seat on one of our Grampians day tours online today or get in touch with us on 1300 55 86 86 to learn more.