panther cryptid britain attack livestock sheep
© Dragonfly Films / SWNSA purported big cat was caught on trail camera in the Kent countryside in 2013, with experts identifying its neck muscle, ear shape and tail as not of a domestic feline
Analysis reveals two sources of DNA on ravaged carcass - one from a fox and one from the Panthera genus

There is a 99 per cent chance that there is a panther living and eating livestock in Cumbria, a scientist has claimed.

Reports of a big cat in the UK countryside have long been the domain of cryptozoologists and amateur sleuths - but evidence suggests it could be more real than previously believed.

A sheep carcass was seen being eaten by a large animal in the Lake District in October 2023 and four swabs were wiped on the wounds, before being sent to Dr Robin Allaby, a biologist at the University of Warwick, for study.

With a lab dedicated to extracting modern environmental DNA from samples, the analysis revealed there to be two non-ovine sources of DNA on the ravaged sheep remains - one from a fox and one from the Panthera genus. This group of animals includes panthers, leopards, tigers and lions.

Dr Allaby has been conducting analysis of samples from suspected big cat attacks since 2011, and never has it yielded anything more exciting than a dog or fox.

"I have remained somewhat open-minded and not overly invested in the big cat story," the scientist told The Telegraph.

"As far as I was concerned, they may or may not exist, but I was happy to provide the testing service, which was clearly needed.

"We spent those 13 years continually disappointing Rick Minter — who has long been involved in tracking sightings of big cats and trying to assemble evidence of their existence in the UK — with identifications of fox or dog. Until, that is, this sample from the Lake District in October last year."

The four swabs were analysed for mitochondrial DNA, a form of genetic material passed down from the mother, in order to determine what species it belonged to.

"In this case, the DNA sequence is 100 per cent unequivocally of the Panthera genus," Dr Allaby told The Telegraph.

The scientist is unable to conclusively say it is from a panther because one letter of the DNA code is not correct, but he believes this may be caused by water reacting with the big cat's DNA and altering the code.

"This means that while the sequence is almost identical to panther (Panthera pardus), there is this one base difference which means scientifically that we must restrict ourselves to calling it as Panthera genus rather than the specific species," he said.

"I find the data we have quite convincing. I'm 99 per cent plus persuaded that our hit is genuine from a panther in Cumbria. What do I think ate the sheep? Panthera pardus, a panther."

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