1855: The Devil's Hoofprints Prints at DawlishThe earliest known description of the hoofprints to appear in print comes from the charmingly named 'Western Luminary and Family Newspaper for Deven, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.'
This first account includes many influential elements that would (and do) recur in tellings of the tale:
Since the recent snow storms, some animal has left marks on the snow that have driven a great many inhabitants from their property, and caused an uproar of commotion among the inhabitants in general. The markings, to say the least of them, are very singular; the footprint, if footprint it be, is exactly 3 1/2 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide, exactly, in shape, like a donkey's hoof: the length of the stride is about a foot apart, very regular and is apparently done by some two-footed animal.
What renders the matter more difficult of solution is, that gardens with walls 12 feet high have been trodden over without any damage having been done to shrubs and walks. The animal must evidently have jumped over the walls. It has also left marks all over the churchyard and between the graves. Many parties have traced the prints for miles, but as yet, without any solution to the mystery. Several of the very superstitious draw long faces and say it must be the marks of old ______: others conjecture that it must be some monkey which has escaped a travelling menagerie, with something on its feet; but all wish the enigma unravelled.
1855: The Devil's Hoofprints Clyst St. GeorgeThe Reverend H T Ellacombe begins collecting details of sightings in his hugely important archive - which will only be published in 1952.