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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Saturday, 7 January 2012


With the Ludlow jungle cat, an ABC from 1989 (Dr Karl Shuker)

I recently received on Facebook a most interesting enquiry from fellow mystery cat investigator Stuart Paterson. Stuart was interested in discovering where and when the term 'alien big cat' and its acronym 'ABC' had first appeared in print.

Keen to track down the answer to this very thought-provoking query, and mindful that they have long been standard usage in Fortean Times, Britain's pre-eminent anomalies journal, I duly conducted some bibliographical research, and this is what I discovered.

Being fortunate enough to own a complete run of Fortean Times, I trawled through every issue starting from #1 (published in November 1973, when it was entitled The News), and I found that the first time that either of these phrases appeared in it was in issue #44 (summer 1985), p. 28. In an article by editor Bob Rickard entitled 'Once More With Felines', reviewing recent mystery cat reports in Britain, the opening section of the first line read as follows: "Our last round-up of alien big-cats (ABC) - we have decided to adopt this acronym - was in FT 42...".

Although previous issues of FT contained numerous accounts of feline cryptids, they had only ever been referred to variously as 'mystery cats', 'phantom felines', 'phantom panthers', 'MAs' (Mystery Animals), or by location-specific terms such as 'Exmoor Beast', 'Surrey Puma', etc.

However, back in 1980, Janet and Colin Bord had referred to 'alien big cats' several times in the mystery cat chapter of their book Alien Animals, though they never abbreviated this term to 'ABC' in it.

I have also scoured through a number of additional books as well as articles from other magazines published during the late 1970s, but I have not uncovered any usage of 'alien big cat' pre-dating that of the Bords in their book. Thus it would appear that they coined this now-iconic phrase, as an offshoot of the 'alien' tag that they also attached to various other terms in their book, and that FT shortened it to 'ABC' five years later in their summer 1985 issue.


  1. Thanks for the mention Karl. You've certainly got the resources to have cracked this one & for that I'm appreciative. If I come across anything else, I'll let you know, though I doubt I will. You don't suppose it's something Charles Fort may have come up with in one of his earlier writings do you?

  2. No problem, Stuart - and thanks for stirring my interest in this! No, I know Fort's writings well, and I can't recall his using these terms anywhere. I'm sure that it stemmed from the Bords' usage of the 'alien' tag throughout their Alien Zoo book, including their cat chapter, where 'alien big cats' appears several times.

  3. Looks like we have a winner. And it's always nice to see the Bords get a mention - in this case it's a definite plaudit - as I'm sure plenty of us are grateful to them & their work for adding to & encouraging our interest in various things strange & hidden.

  4. Absolutely - Alien Zoo was the first book I read that explored mystery animals from a Fortean standpoint rather than a wholly cryptozoological one.

  5. I do of course mean Alien Animals, NOT Alien Zoo! lol

  6. Laurence Crossen9 January 2012 at 19:21

    Latest news bulletin:
    A giant Galapagos tortoise believed extinct for 150 years probably still exists, say scientists.