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What Was the Beast of Gévaudan?

May 28, 2020 in History

By Joseph A. Williams

Between 1765 and 1767, an unknown creature killed over 100 people in a rural region of France—and captivated a horrified world.

Between 1764 and 1767 a mysterious creature called the Beast ravaged the rural region of Gévaudan, France. About 100 men, women and children reportedly fell victim to La Bête du Gévaudan. While many French at the time presumed the Beast to be a wolf and many modern scholars agree, some have suggested that the Beast may not have been a wolf at all.

So what was it?

‘Like a Wolf, Yet Not a Wolf’

Illustration of the Beast of Gévaudan, circa 1765.

The first , “Gévaudan had a serious wolf infestation.” He believes that large lone wolves were attacking individual communities across the region or that it was a wolf pack.

Smith asserts that many of the fantastical qualities attributed to the Beast were induced by clergy who stirred up fear in the populace that God was punishing the French for its defeat in the Seven Years’ War. For hunters, killing the beast was a way of reclaiming France’s lost honor.

Wolves are native to the region and had attacked humans before—some statistics show that wolves attacked humans 9,000 times in France between the 17th and 19th centuries. In most cases these types of attacks were by rabid wolves.

There are some potential flaws to the wolf theory, including the frequency of the Beast’s deadly attacks, suggesting it was not a single rabid wolf. Also none of its victims seem to have contracted rabies, suggesting that their attacker also did not carry rabies.

Although there are strong voices arguing multiple theories about the identity of the Beast of Gévaudan, all admit that the truth will never be fully known. Without any genetic or forensic evidence, the Beast of Gévaudan is bound to forever remain a mystery.

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