The Beast of Gévaudan is the historic name associated with a man-eating animal or animals that terrorized the former province of Gévaudan, in the Margeride Mountains of south-central France between 1764 and 1767.
The attacks, were said to have been committed by one or more beasts with formidable teeth and immense tails, according to contemporary eyewitnesses. Most descriptions from the period identify the beast as a striped hyena, wolf, dog, or wolf-dog hybrid.
Victims were often killed by having their throats torn out. The Kingdom of France used a considerable amount of wealth and manpower to hunt the animals responsible, including the resources of several nobles, soldiers, royal huntsmen, and civilians. The number of victims differs according to the source. A 1987 study estimated there had been 210 attacks, resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. Other sources claim the animal or animals killed between 60 and 100 adults and children and injured more than 30. The beast was reported killed several times before the attacks finally stopped.
Descriptions of the time vary, and reports may have been greatly exaggerated, owing to public hysteria, but the beast was generally described as a wolf-like canine with a tall, lean frame capable of taking great strides. It was said to be the size of a calf, a cow, or, in some cases, a horse. It had an elongated head similar to that of a greyhound, with a flattened snout, pointed ears, and a wide mouth sitting atop a broad chest. The beast’s tail was also reported to have been notably longer than a wolf’s, with a prominent tuft at the end. The beast’s fur was described as tawny or russet in color but its back was streaked with black, and a white heart-shaped pattern was noted on its underbelly.