The Beast Of Funen

2005, Jan 1st | Emner: Myths & Mysteries

by Willy Wegner, translated by Jens Laigaard

In the beginning it was allegedly a lion, then it turned into a puma, and after that it was suspected of being a joke. Subsequently it was explained as being a nice doggie named Magnus, but that explanation went overboard, and then names like jungle cat and lynx were used to describe the beast.

The beast seems to have appeared out of nowhere as an out-of-place phenomenon. Indeed, the whole story is far out!

The beast was first observed on Saturday the 13th of May, 1995, in the village of Kertinge in Eastern Funen, in Denmark. The witness immediately called the police, reporting that there was a lion outside his house. The accounts do little to conceal that the Nyborg police were somewhat sceptical. This may be due to the fact that the informer was a Copenhagener who lived only occasionally in Kertinge. One has, after all, heard of city dwellers who are quite unacquainted to the sight of a living cow or other creatures that roam the open spaces.

But the police of Nyborg had another call – other people had seen the lion – and at last they went off to investigate. According to the newspaper the constables were poorly equipped for this kind of assignment, as they set out armed with nothing more than batons and walkie-talkies, leaving the heavy guns such as water cannons at home. What reckless behaviour! They did not see the lion, and that may be just as well.

A peaceful weekend went by. Then the lion was back!

Monday morning Peter Tyllesen had been driving his wife to work in Nyborg, and just after eight he saw a big yellow female lion strolling along beside the motorway where no-one is allowed to walk, man or beast:

“I’m not one hundred percent certain of what I saw. But I do believe it was a lion. The tail had that distinctive sway to it,” he explained, “and it was rather big, you know.” The beast made a few long leaps across Storebælt road and disappeared.

Nyborg police kept a low profile, but the newspaper obtained a statement from a biologist at Odense Zoo, Nina Collatz Christensen: “I think it must have been a large dog. That’s the only animal I can think of that may be mistaken for a lion,” she said. One assumes that she had counted the lions of the zoo before making this statement.

The Lion Park of Givskud reported that all their lions were still on the right side of the fence. The manager of the lion park was of the opinion that what had been observed in Funen was nothing more than a Golden Retriever. The editor of these pages made a visit himself to Givskud in the Whitsun holidays, and I too am sceptical of the idea that it could have been one of the lions of this park. The beasts looked incredibly lazy and seemed hardly capable of crossing one of the bridges connecting Jutland with Funen. A sign told the visitor that it was not uncommon for the lions to lie flat out twenty hours a day!

Klaus Dræby, manager of Vissenbjerg Vivarium in Funen, thought that the animal might be a jungle cat:

“In Holland and Belgium among other places a number of jungle cats are privately owned, and I know there are some in Denmark too…” A jungle cat – felis chaus in Latin – is a wild feline about the size of a Labrador dog, and it is quite possible to mistake it for a lion. He adds that a pair of jungle cats can be bought for 7000 Danish kroner.

Ekstra Bladet on May 18th tells us that a six-year-old boy has seen the lion in Frørup and that police in great numbers are hunting the feline in eastern Funen. The boy Jacob watched the lion cross the street Bygaden and disappear into the butcher’s garden. Another newspaper has it that it was the vicar’s garden, but oh well, it was in Frørup anyway!

The Nyborg police were not succesful this time either, and besides, the newspaper says, one could appreciate a certain relief at Nyborg police station that the lion now seemed to be moving into Svendborg police district.

According to the same source a sportsman in Ørbæk had spotted the lion near his hen house at a very close distance. He asked permission to shoot the beast, and that was all right with the authorities, but by the time he had fetched and loaded his rifle the lion was gone. No big game trophy in Funen this time.

The lion identified?

On Saturday 20th of May Fyens Stiftstidende claims to have found the lion – it is a dog of the Broholm breed named Magnus!

A pair of vagabonds who have been wandering around eastern Funen are the owners of Magnus. They say it may be possible that some people have mistaken their dog for a lion. But there is not much of a lion to the affectionate one-year-old Magnus, who is seen in a photo wearing a walking harness and muffler! The caption beneath the newspaper portrait of Magnus reads: “At at long, long distance in twilight and with foggy glasses you just might mistake the Broholm dog Magnus for the king of the animals.”

Magnus was not interrogated or put in jail. It would have been interesting to see if the sightings had stopped with Magnus under lock and key.

All the same, one should bear in mind that none of those who claim to have met the beast of Funen has observed it at a long distance and through foggy glasses. And if a sportsman cannot tell a lion from a dog at a distance of eight metres, then we should all think twice about going out in the hunting season. Quite possibly you would hear shouts of “Duck!” at both ends of the barrel!

Notwithstanding, the journalist ends his article by saying: “In order for peace and quiet to settle once again on eastern Funen let us hope that Magnus is the one who has been playing Danish counterpart to the Hound of the Baskervilles.”

It would soon be clear that he wasn’t.

The very same afternoon you could read about pure and innocent Magnus the real beast was seen by two boys at Glorup estate in the municipality of Ørbæk. And the next day at Hvirringe wood near Kerteminde, followed by a report of a puma at Verninge. As if that wasn’t enough, some unusually large animal tracks were found in Tommerup village Sunday morning the 21st of May. Maybe from a lynx, said the sportsman who made the discovery.

The prints of the paws were six to seven centimeters long and were examined by Klaus Dræby of Vissenbjerg Vivarium. He does not think they were made by a carnivore, but on the other hand he will not exclude the possibility. Any which way you want!

Ornithologists get up at the most ungodly hours. So Per Havlit of Odense got up at three a.m. Sunday to drive out and spy on the birds. He did so calmly as he did not believe the writings about a predator on the prowl. He was in Hvirringe wood, hoping to have a field day with his glasses:

“I noticed a yellow-brownish heap of something which at a distance looked like newly felled wood. I looked in my glasses and decided it must be a roe deer. Suddenly I spotted a long thigh, and then the female lion turned around.”

Well, so long! Surely at that moment the ornithologist of Funen must have wished he had wings.

Per Havlit told the press:

“I ran all the way up to my car and at once contacted the manager at Hvirringe estate. When I rang at the door I was drenched with sweat,”

Accompained by the manager he searched for the animal a couple of hours, but he did not see it again. It was not until he was back home Per Havlit called the police:

“But the officer only asked how much I’d had to drink. They would not take me seriously even though I was as sober as a judge.”

The police did, however, confirm that there had been an observation at Glorup estate and that the beast had been spotted several times in the days before in the southern part of Nyborg police district (and no doubt they hoped all the time that the troublesome animal would move on t
o another police district). Police and gamekeepers had investigated the sighting at Glorup estate on Saturday afternoon. Two boys had reported seeing the animal cross the road where they lived and then disappear in a field of rape.

For this reason the officer on duty was sceptical of the report from Hvirringe wood:

“On Saturday afternoon the animal was seen by two 14-year-old boys at Glorup estate in Ørbæk municipality. And in the days before that it has been seen several times in the southern part of our district. I don’t believe it could have moved to a spot north of Kerteminde in twelve hours. Going around the bay it would have to walk more than 60 kilometers. And moving in a straight line it would have to walk straight through the city and across a bridge.”

It seems that no-one has considered the possibility of two or more predators on the loose, maybe even in league to confuse the inhabitants of Funen and to expose how unprepared the police are in case of lion alert! Or perhaps with the intent to herald the silly season in the newspapers? One has indeed wondered that no leftovers from a beastly feast have been found – no remains of lapdogs, outdoor pigs or roe deer have been discovered.

It was a lynx!

A farmer of northern Funen spotted the animal on May 25th around half past nine a.m. near Otterup village. Børge Jørgensen of Gundstrup recounts:

“I am a sportsman and normally carry my field glasses with me. They came to use when the pale yellow animal was prowling along a hedgerow in a field of spring barley 200 metres away from me. It was almost twice as big as a Labrador dog and had a long tail. The head was round and shaggy, the ears pointed with a small tuft. I was able to follow it in my glasses for about 150 metres until it disappeared into the field. I am almost quite certain it was a lynx. It was a well-nourished lynx and quite beautiful to look at. But all the same I think it should be shot.”

The lynx was reported to the police, but that did not cause any alarm. The reason may be that a lynx does not have a long tail. But apart from that the description was quite fitting for a lynx.

Beastly peeping Tom

On May 26th a municipal employee of Otterup was taken with his pants down, or at least unzipped. While he has standing there, doing what a man has to do sometimes, the beast of Funen had sneaked up on him. What should have been a relief suddenly turned into a tense situation, a chill that would have made many a brave man wet his pants, but in this respect Ove Rasmussen was on the safe side. He recounts:

“I hear a spitting sound. Turn my head. And there it is, flashing its fangs. The canine teeth are this long,”

Ove Rasmussen says, indicating a length of five or seven centimeters between forefinger and thumb. The beast did not jump on him. Maybe it was frightened too when he turned around!

“Didn’t even get my vitals tucked in. I just wanted to get away.”

With lightning speed Ove Rasmussen reached his parked car and jumped inside. While he was sitting there, struggling to get the car started, the beast of Funen disappeared in the direction of Vestermosen. One hopes, fully realizing the graveness of the situation, that Ove Rasmussen was not too feverish to remember getting his vitals inside before zipping up!

Ove Rasmussen describes the animal like this:

“I looked right into its eyes, they were yellowish-brown. It was about the size of a German shepherd dog, with a pale yellow body and the fur a bit thicker on the head, and it had brownish spots on the chest and the foremost part of the belly. The part of it that I could see. And the tail was a bit more dark and tufty. Well, I’m still shocked. And I think of what may happen to little children and domestic animals around here if the animal is allowed to prowl about,”

He states once again that it was a harrowing experience, and he hopes the beast will be shot so that people need worry no more. Ove Rasmussen has not reported the incident to the police, because, he says, they never take these things seriously. Besides, one should not compromise oneself. He had been exposing himself indecentely to the beast – and that may be a good thing, otherwise we might have had municipial employee leftovers on our hands.

On the same date, May 26th, something was afoot in Bårdesø in northern Funen. In the evening Lisbeth and Solveig Kallesøe were sitting in the kitchen when they heard a spitting sound outside. At the same moment dogs in the neighbourhood started barking.

The next day the Kallesøe family discovered some tracks in a newly harrowed field. Each print had three pads pointing forward and one pointing backward, and the prints were seven centimeters long and six wide. The space between the prints was about 40 centimeters.

At the time of writing, at the end of May 1995, the mystery is still unsolved. The beast of Funen has made itself scarce!

Not the first time

Alien big cats have been reported before that in Denmark. For instance, one was said to be prowling in southern Jutland in 1982. Forest supervisor Niels L. Thomsen of Lindet wood thought that some unidentified carnivore was hiding in the woods west of Toftlund.

As early as January the carcass of a roe deer had been found in Lindet wood. A few months later a similar discovery was made in Hønning plantation. In both cases the head of the roe deer was missing. The leg of a roe deer was found at the latter location in March. It had been dragged up in a small oak. The bark of the tree had scratches that could have been made by a big feline.

Until July several people reported seeing a feline which they compared to a puma. One game biologist thought, however, that the animal was a lynx. According to the eyewitnesses the beast had been going back and forth across the frontier without being stopped in the customs, as the unknown animal was last seen at Flensborg bay about 50 kilometers from Lindet wood, where at first it was thought to be staying in the early months of the year.

At the end of July 1982 the affair took a dramatic turn. Now the wild animal was spotted near Husum in northern Germany by Uwe Sander of Oldersbek, age 38, as he was taking a ride in his car:

“I followed the animal, and at one point I had to back into a branch road. When I had come close to the animal I got out to fetch a pitchfork in the trunk. I got out of the car, but before I could get hold of the pitchfork the animal jumped on me, going for my head and throat.

We both fell down, but fortunately I quickly got a grip on the animal’s neck with both arms. I also tried to get my legs around the body of the animal, but it scratched its way out of my grip and ran away.”

During this bout of catch-as-catch-can Uwe Sander was convinced that the animal must be a puma. It had four long canine teeth, long whiskers and a silvery brown fur. The puma was growling fiercely. After the struggle Uwe Sander realized that he had been badly knocked about. The right side of his face had been ripped and there were deep scratches all over his body.

After being treated by a doctor he went home. In the meantime fifty sportsmen and twenty constables were out hunting for the puma. Several tracks were found, but not the puma itself. The next day the hunt was intensified. A helicopter was used. But as far as the editors of Para-nyt have been able to find out, the scratchy puma was never found.

In England alien felines have often made a nuisance of themselves. They have been spotted and shot at, and they have scratched British citizens. The April-May ’95 issue of Fortean Times has a fea
ture on the incidents. In January 1995 a member of the British Parliament saw a beast at close range. This may be an issue for the European Union – drawing up some harmonized regulations for intercourse with out-of-place animals!

References

  • Puma løs på Fyn / mich. – Ekstra Bladet 17. maj 1995.
  • Var det en and? / Erik Thomsen. – Fyens Stiftstidende 17. maj 1995.
  • Jacob på seks: Jeg så løven / mich. – Ekstra Bladet 18. maj 1995.
  • Kæmpekatten set igen / Thomas Havely. – Fyens Stiftstidende 18. maj 1995.
  • Løven er en junglekat / Mogens Rasmussen. – Fyens Stiftstidende 18. maj 1995.
  • Ingen lov mod kælerovdyr / Erik Thomsen. – Fyens Stiftstidende 18. maj 1995.
  • Jagten på Simba gået ind på Fyn. – JyskeVestkysten 19. maj 1995.
  • Løven er løs på Fyn. – Politiken 19. maj 1995.
  • Kæmpekat huserer på Fyn. – Det fri Aktuelt 19. maj 1995.
  • Det er sgu en løve / Hanne Füschel. – Ekstra Bladet 22. maj 1995.
  • Løven gik i hundene / Thomas Havely. – Fyens Stiftstidende 20. maj 1995.
  • Fynsk løve var en hund. – JyskeVestkysten 21. maj 1995.
  • Løven spøger stadig. – Fyens Stiftstidende 22. maj 1995.
  • Lossen måske løs på Højfyn / Claus Falkenby. – Fyens Stiftstidende 23. maj 1995.
  • I løvens tegn / Anders Mose Poulsen. – Fyens Stiftstidende 25. maj 1995.
  • Løven er en los / Per Jensen. – Fyens Stiftstidende 26. maj 1995.
  • Så rovdyret lige i øjnene / Lise Thing. – Morgenavisen Fyens Stiftstidende 27. maj 1995.
  • Rovdyret er flyttet nordpå / Anne-Lise Lindharth og Aksel Brahe. – Fyens Stiftstidende 28. maj 1995.
  • Løven er løs igen. – Det fri Aktuelt 29. maj 1995.
  • På sporet af ukendt rovdyr / mat. – Jyllands-Posten 24. juni 1982.
  • Los på fri fod i Lindet Skov / Jyllands-Posten 11. juli 1982.
  • Stor jagt på pumaen – den angreb mand / Kay Rasmussen. – Jyllands-Posten 28. juli 1982.
  • Fortean Times, April-May 1995.

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