In 1764, a strange and extremely terrifying creature terrorised the inhabitants of the province of Lozere (then the province of Gevaudan) in southern France for almost three years. The giant beast preyed mainly on women and children, slaughtering them mercilessly, one by one. But the French soldiers sent to capture and kill the beast lurking in the depths of the forest were initially helpless.
The monster was first spotted in June 1764 by a shepherdess grazing her animals in a field at the edge of the forest. The terrifying creature spotted the girl and chased her through the woods, but she miraculously escaped. When she returned to the village she told the story of her encounter. She said the creature was the size of a cow, resembling a wolf, with a striped pattern on its back.
It had a striped pattern and a bushy tail at the end of its reddish fur, like a lion’s, and a head like a greyhound’s. Its long skull was lined with needle-sharp teeth and its eyes glowed like embers.
The girl, as she told the people, had run and fled from the ferocious beast that was chasing her through the bushes and ditches, and had been very lucky to escape. Although the beast ran fast, it could not catch the poor girl. The attacks continued, however, and the beast began to wreak havoc.
Soon there were victims and when the villagers witnessed the monster attacking and dragging a young girl into the forest, they were certain that the threat was deadly serious.
Some children who had seen the beast said that it was leaping like a mountain goat, while an old man who had seen the creature prowling around the henhouse said that the beast walked on two legs and laughed like a man.
The bishop of the province took the whole circus as a punishment from God, while the population appealed to the king for help. King Louis XV of France, seeing that the population of the province was powerless against the beast, sent out a large number of soldiers to kill the monster. Hundreds of French soldiers and thousands of enraged peasants then pushed their way into the forest in pursuit of the beast.
At first they thought they were dealing with a giant wolf and slaughtered hundreds of wolves in their path. The soldiers and volunteer farmers who entered the dense forest searched and chased the Geavudani monster for several days before they were successful. A huge manhunt with dogs began.
The beast, thought by many to be a dragon of some kind, was tracked down by the soldiers and almost captured when it attacked its pursuers.
But one soldier managed to wound the ferocious beast in the heat of battle, and it fled into the dense forest. The chase was over and the soldiers and peasants celebrated their victory. An evening of revelry, dancing, drumming and wine-drinking ensued. It was believed that the wounded animal had escaped somewhere in the forest. There were no attacks in the area for a few months, except for the attack of an occasional wolf or fox, but nothing else.
But the beast was not destroyed. One night it attacked again and this time three unfortunate women were the preys. It devoured their heads and gutted their bodies. For the next three years, there was not an eastern French province without monster attacks. By mid-1767, the killer beast had claimed no fewer than 68 children, 15 women and 6 men. Despite repeated hunts by locals and soldiers, the creature always eluded them. The nobility were so enraged that they too took up arms, plunged into the forest and killed almost every beast in their path. The king even summoned one of the best wolf hunters in the country and was asked to track down and kill the monster.
The horror was soon over: a certain Jean Chastel chased the beast into the forest and, after a long day’s struggle, finally managed to bring it down with a silver bullet. The larger-than-human creature, however, did not resemble any known animal species, but it was found that the strong-bodied male animal had a mane running down its back to its tufted tail. It had the skin and fur of a wild boar, even the point of a spear could not penetrate it, and was indeed a man-eating predator. When it was dissected, the remains of a small child were found in its stomach.
The unidentified creature was attempted to be taxidermied, but it began to decompose. However, as a reward for the monster’s trophy, the carcass was taken to the royal court at the Palace of Versailles, where it was shown to the monarch and buried. But was it really the only one roaming the French forests at the time? It is recorded that the male monster had a mate, a female monster, but this too was supposedly shot down years later.
The story of the monster of Lozere remains shrouded in mystery and speculation to this day, with some believing it to be a remnant of a long-extinct species, while others claim it was a spawn of the devil himself. Nevertheless, the memory of the terror it inflicted on the people of the province lives on, serving as a cautionary tale of the dangers that lurk in the shadows and the power of the human spirit to triumph over them. The story of the beast of Lozere will continue to be passed down from generation to generation, reminding us all of the unknown mysteries that still exist in our world, waiting to be discovered.