Leafy Surrey is a world away from the steamy tropical jungles where the known species of big cat prowl. And yet, since the late 1950s the affluent commuter county has been haunted by the presence of black pumas - who have yet to make a meal of any suburbanites, fortunately.
The history of the Surrey Puma has been traced back as far as 1825, when William Cobbett reported seeing a 'big grey cat the size of a medium-sized spaniel' among the ruins of Waverley Abbey. Of course, this is not an especially dramatic size by the standards of the beasts that are reported today, but provides an interesting historical/folkloric background to the modern puma.
The flurry started in 1959, when a Mr. Burningham spotted an "enormous great cat" approximately the size of a labrador crossing the road on the border with Hampshire, and sightings continued throughout the following years.
In 1964, the puma made its physical presence known when a bull was found, lacerated by the claws of some unknown creature, and since then plastercasts of footprints and hairs have been positively identified as belonging to a puma.
None of this, of course, proves that a puma really is - or ever was - on the loose in the commuter belt, but they serve as tantalising evidence for those that believe in the reality of ABCs. It is interesting to note that reports of the puma certainly predate the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, which is often blamed for the supposed existence of big cats in Britain's countryside.
Today, sightings are still reported of this most enigmatically placed of mysterious creatures.