Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

ENCHANTED BY THE ENCHANTRESS

Illustration copyright of Warner Brothers (utilising the Fair Dealing/Fair Use convention, it is presented here in the context of review and on an entirely non-commercial basis)


It was over 14 years ago when English zoologist Clinton Keeling inserted the following note in the October 1997 issue of his quarterly magazine Mainly About Animals:

"Although its title now escapes me, I recall a film, made in the 1960s and supposedly set in a German zoological garden and the town or city in which it was situated, that primarily concerned the arrival and subsequent escape of a much-sought-after new arrival called an Enchantress. Certainly it looked like nothing on earth, as some powder or lotion had been worked into its fur to give it a shimmering effect of glowing orange - yet it was only an ordinary Jaguar. Does anyone else remember this film, plus its name?"

No-one answered his enquiry, and in spite of some diligent researches of my own since then, I have never able to identify this film either – until now.

Yesterday afternoon, I happened to mention it casually in passing while chatting over the phone with friend and fellow crypto-enthusiast Spencer Thrower. Spencer has an extraordinary gift for uncovering obscure information online, and I could tell from his comments and the tone of his voice that he was very intrigued by the Enchantress and keen to begin investigating the case himself on my behalf. But would he succeed? Silly question, really, because less than half an hour later he phoned back in triumph, having not only tracked down and identified the film and the original novel upon which it was based, but also obtained a list of its stars, a detailed plot synopsis, and even a couple of full-colour posters illustrating the elusive Enchantress!

Spencer Thrower with the novel 'Rampage', written by Alan Caillou (Dr Karl Shuker)


The film in question was ‘Rampage’, directed by Phil Carlson, released in Technicolor by Warner Brothers in 1963, based upon the 1961 novel of the same title by Alan Caillou, and starring Robert Mitchum as big game trapper Harry Stanton, Jack Hawkins as professional hunter Otto Abbot, Elsa Martinelli as Otto’s mistress, Ana, and Sabu as a native helper. The film’s basic plot is as follows:

Harry is commissioned by a West German Zoo to capture in the Malay jungle an ultra-rare type of big cat, claimed to be a hybrid of tiger and leopard, and known as ‘The Enchantress’. He is accompanied by Otto and Ana. Various rivalries begin between the two men, but when Otto traps the Enchantress in a cave and is badly mauled by it, Harry comes to his rescue, and captures the big cat. Back in Germany, Harry transports the Enchantress to its zoo destination via freight train, but Otto, jealous of how close Harry and Ana have become, releases the big cat while Harry is alone with it. Happily, however, he manages to escape its clutches, after which the Enchantress leaps from the train. After killing a janitor, it is subsequently cornered by Otto, who then witnesses the arrival of Harry and Ana, and attempts unsuccessfully to shoot Harry, but in so doing he renders himself vulnerable to the highly unstable Enchantress, who kills him before being shot itself by Ana.

I have yet to locate a copy of this film to watch, so until I do so I cannot describe or comment upon what the late Clinton Keeling said about the Enchantress’s unusual colouration. Judging from various posters for the film that I have seen, however, it resembles a normal leopard in background colouration, but its rosettes are more like the juvenile patterning exhibited by young cubs of such felids as the lion and the puma.

After Spencer had identified the film and the original Alan Caillou novel, I was able to purchase a copy of the latter. However, I was surprised to discover that in the novel the cat was not a tiger-leopard hybrid with shimmering coat, and was not even referred to as the Enchantress. It was merely a nameless (albeit very large) black panther (melanistic leopard). Clearly, then, its hybrid identity, distinctive coat, and name were all changes that had been thought up by the film makers specifically for the film.

In any event, although the Enchantress is fictitious, at least one report of a seemingly genuine tiger-leopard hybrid encountered in the wild has been documented (which should be called a leogar, if, as here, the parents are a leopard and a tigress - see later discussion in this blog post; or a tipard if resulting from the less likely reciprocal cross); and an exotic black panther x tigress hybrid was successfully bred in captivity. Here are the details of these two very remarkable cases.

The year was 1910 when F.C. Hicks included in his book Forty Years Among the Wild Animals of India the following account of what seems to have been a truly unique big cat:

"There is a persistent idea among the natives all over India that the largest males of this species frequently mate with tigresses, who point as proof to the excessively prominent stripes with which some of these largest panthers [i.e. normal spotted leopards, not black panthers] are marked in the lower portions of the body about their stomach, calling them “doglas” or hybrids. But this I think is a mistake, for I once, and once only, had the fortune to shoot a true hybrid, between a panther and a tigress I think, which was a vastly different looking animal to that referred to by the natives as a "dogla". It happened shortly before I was mauled that I beat for what I thought was a tigress, the footmarks of the animal being like that of a female feline. During the beat the spotted head of a panther of extraordinary size pushed its way through the grass, followed by the unmistakable striped shoulders and body of a tiger, though looking a bit dirty as if it had been rolling in ashes. I succeeded in dropping this extraordinary creature dead with a shot in the neck, and, on examining it, I found it to be a very old male hybrid, with both its teeth and claws much worn and broken; its head and tail were purely that of a panther, but with a body, shoulders and neck-ruff unmistakably that of a tiger, the black stripes being broad and long though somewhat blurred and breaking off here and there into a few blurred rosettes, the stripes of the tiger being the most predominant on the body. One of the peculiarities of this creature which I particularly noticed was, that though it was male, it had the feet of a female and measured a little over 8 feet in length.

"This unique trophy, I am sorry to say, disappeared during the general confusion that followed on my being mauled; it may have been sold off with others of my things while I lay unconscious or it may have been stolen; I never succeeded in tracing it again.

"Having thus once seen a true hybrid, I am inclined to doubt whether there is really anything in the native idea of connecting some of the larger species of panthers, which they call "doglas", with tigers; on the other hand it has yet to be proved whether such a hybrid as I shot is capable of breeding, or whether it is sterile. If they are capable of breeding again in their turn with other panthers, then there may be a great deal in this idea of the natives; in which case it may well be that it is originally owing to such crossings with tigers that we have the larger species of panthers in India."

But would a tigress and a leopard ever associate with one another in the wild? According to the following note that appeared in Cat News for July 1988 (referring to an account that had originally appeared some 50 years earlier in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society), the answer to this question would appear to be a cautious ‘yes’:

"Iftikhar Ali Khan, a prince of Malerkotla State, witnessed the tigress/leopard association when he put out a buffalo bait in the Vindhya Mountains in Central India. He first heard the leopard "sawing" and the tigress moaning. Then the leopard came from the bushes and killed the buffalo while the tigress watched. They then ate together. The episode was repeated a few days later. On the third occasion a bigger buffalo threw off the leopard when it attacked, and the tigress then jumped in and made the kill before they ate together."

In captivity, many instances of lion x tiger matings, and some lion x leopard matings, have occurred – but what about tiger x leopard matings? I currently know only of a single successful example (several unsuccessful attempts are on record, which yielded spontaneously aborted foetuses or stillborn cubs), and what made this even more memorable is that the parental leopard was not a normal spotted specimen but rather a melanistic individual, a black panther, which duly inspired the media to refer to this unique hybrid big cat as a pantig!


I first learnt of the pantig from the newspaper article presented above, which appeared in London’s Sun newspaper on 7 January 1978 and contains the only photograph of this cat (snapped by John Doidge) that I have ever seen, but subsequent investigations uncovered some additional details, mostly concerning its external morphology. So here is what I have written about the pantig in a forthcoming book of mine, I Thought I Saw The Strangest Cat...:

"Without a specimen of a tiger-leopard hybrid to study, scientists have traditionally doubted that these two species could successfully interbreed, but just over 30 years ago a male cub was raised that swept aside all such misgivings. Born during the winter of 1977 at Southam Zoo, formerly near Leamington in Warwickshire, England, this significant hybrid's origin and upbringing was nothing if not varied - sired by a black panther, born to a tigress, and foster-reared by a dachshund bitch called Dinah!

"As black panthers are merely melanistic leopards, this cub was a bona fide leopard x tiger hybrid, but the media dubbed him a 'pantig' - even though his coat's background colour was the typical yellow-brown shade of normal leopards, rather than his father's ebony hue. Indeed, as I learnt from the owner of Southam Zoo, as he grew older this pantig's appearance closely mirrored Hicks's description of his presumed leopard x tiger hybrid, thereby backing his claim regarding the latter cat's status as a natural-born crossbreed. When adult, the pantig was sold to an American zoo."

I would dearly like to learn more about this extraordinary creature, but I have been unable to trace its whereabouts since it departed England for the United States. Does anyone know which American zoo it was sold to? Any leads or information would be greatly valued!

Incidentally, if the offspring resulting from a male black panther (i.e. melanistic leopard) mating successfully with a female tiger is called a pantig, what term should be applied to the offspring resulting from a successful mating between a male spotted leopard and a female tiger? Regrettably, certain websites persist in referring to this particular hybrid type as a dogla, which is totally incorrect and very misleading. This is because, as noted above, 'dogla' is nothing more than a colloquial, wholly non-scientific term applied by native Indian hunters to sizeable specimens of leopard that happen to have prominently striped underparts. However, no such specimen has ever been scientifically confirmed as a bona fide male leopard-female tiger hybrid. And in any case, when considering a species of cat as notoriously variably both in size and in patterning as the leopard, such features carry precious little taxonomic significance.

Consequently, the correct scientific term that should always be utilised when considering male spotted leopard x female tiger hybrids is leoger - obtained by combining the first half of the paternal species' common name with the second half of the maternal species' common name. This is the standard method used when devising scientific terms for specific types of hybrid big cat (e.g. a male lion x female tiger hybrid is a liger, a male leopard x female lion hybrid is a leopon, etc).

Finally: in 1966 German zoologist Dr Helmut Hemmer documented a reputed tiger x leopard hybrid - an old male big cat with a leopardine head and neck but a tigerine neck ruff, shoulders, and body that was patterned with black stripes. These were long, broad, and somewhat blurred, breaking up every so often into indistinct rosettes. This is clearly one and the same specimen as that which had been shot and subsequently documented by F.C. Hicks back in 1910.

My sincere thanks go to the late Clinton Keeling for first bringing the Enchantress to my attention via his magazine, and to Spencer Thrower for so ably assisting me in tracing the film in which she appeared.

This article is drawn from two separate chapters in my forthcoming, long-awaited second book on mysterious and mythological felids, entitled Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery, which will be published in autumn 2012.

UPDATE - 28 May 2011.

After eventually tracking down and purchasing a DVD of the film ‘Rampage’ on eBay, today I was finally able to sit back and watch it – only to be extremely disappointed by what I saw. The cat taking the role of the Enchantress was a leopard, but the shimmering glow of its coat as claimed by Clinton was conspicuous only by its absence, except for the faintest hue afforded it by the flames of a fiery torch brandished at it by Harry during a scene in which he pursued it inside a dark cave. Just as beauty is the eye of the beholder, so too, it would seem, is the Enchantress’s shimmer!

5 comments:

  1. Whoah!

    You know, they should call it a "panger". Pantig's a bit, well, backwards. The press always think up the strange names!

    It's just like how they called the Vancouver tooth's owner "modern Vancouversaur REX"! Strange name. By the way, did you know I discovered the tooth?

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  2. Interesting! Does this mean that you are Mathew Morin, or Mathew's father, Joe?

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  3. Actually, it's a slightly different tooth. Sorry for assuming that the cryptozoological tale extended beyond the city of Vancouver.

    You see, when I was five or something, I found a tooth on the ground. Even so young, I noticed two things. First, it belonged to a carnivorous dinosaur. If I got that wrong, then I'm Dr. Doolittle. And two, it was under a year old! That's right. No fossilization or even decomposition or anything. Evidently super young. The animal that had the tooth in it's mouth had probably died a week at most before I found it. But it was a dinosaur tooth. See what I'm getting at?

    Unfortunately, the tooth is currently buried under miles of mess and clutter in our house. By the time I realized it's zoological importance, it was already missing. I don't know what century I'll find it in, but it won't be soon.

    So that's the story. Any idea on whether or not it's legitimate, any reports of dinosaurs in Vancouver, anything? I'd love to hear it. Might give a clue or two. Also, who's Mathew Morin?



































    All the best, Anonymous (tooth hunter)

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  4. Actually, I am Mattias Westby. I, unfortunately, have never heard of Mathew or Joe Morin. The tooth I refer to is slightly different. but incredibly intriguing. Maybe world changing! Will tell you more on next post, if this one shows up. I have posted the whole story six times and each time the post got deleted. Strict firewall or screening process?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Update -

    I found the tooth. Sadly, it appears I'm Dr. Doolittle - its a bird beak. I was around five when I found it, and I guess my imagination is stronger than my long term memory!

    Sorry for wasting time and space on a wild goose chase. Also, the Modern vancouversaur rex appears to be seperate from my tooth - rumor about some creature in the sewer found by a certain "Emily Xoah." Read the last name backwards.

    Yours truly, Mattias, not yet a paleontologist after all

    ReplyDelete