Les chasseurs luttent contre la Bête du Gévaudan

Description of the Beast

The marquess of Apchier was living in his castle of Besques, near Charraix and was hunting the Beast with his servants for a long time and this is during one of his hunts of June 19th, 1767 that Jean Chastel killed the Beast (a male animal). A minute preserved at the “Archives Nationales” and written on 20th June 1767 by master Marin, royal scrivener of Langeac, gives us the following information:

- « When the marquess of Apchier had carried this animal in his castle of Besques, parish of Charraix, we thought it would be appropriate to see the beast that looked like a wolf. But it was an unusual wolf; its face and proportions were very different from the wolves one sees in this country.

That was confirmed by more than 300 persons from all over the country who came to see it: many hunters and a lot of experts pointed out that only the tail and the bottom of this animal are those of a wolf whereas its head had monstrous proportions! Its eyes bare an unusual membrane that starts at the base of the orbit and may cover the eyeball if needed.

Its neck is covered with a very thick red-greyish hair crossed by some black stripes; there is a large white heart-shaped mark on the breast, its legs bare four fingers armed with huge nails that are much longer than those of ordinary wolves, these legs are very large, especially the front ones, coloured like a deer. It seemed to us it was a relevant observation because neither expert nor hunters had ever seen a wolf with such colours. It was also remarkable to notice that its ribs were not placed sidelong as the ones of a wolf and therefore allowed this animal to turn around easily.

The proportions of this animal were:

Length from the root of the tail until the top of the head, 3 feet (99 cm)
From the top of the head until the eyes,
6 inches (16.2 cm)
From the eyes until the nose, 5 inches (13
.5 cm)
Width from one ear to another, 7 inches (18
.9 cm)
Opening of the mouth, 7 inches (19 cm)
Width of the neck, around 8 inches (22
.9 cm)
Width of the shoulders, 11 inches (29
.7 cm)
Width of the bottom, around 8 inches (23 cm)
Length of the tail, 8 inches (21 cm) (wher
es the tail is always described as « very long »…is there an error in the transcription?)
Diameter of the tail, around 3 inches (8 cm)
Longueur d’oreille,
4 pouces 6 lignes.
Width of the forehead, above the ears, 6 inches (16
.2 cm)
Distance between the eyes, around 2 inches (5 cm)
Length of the humerus, around 8 inches (23 cm)
Length of the forearm, 8 inches (23 cm)
Length of the last joint to the nails, around 7 inches (18 cm)
Length of the jaw, 6 inches (16
.2 cm)
Width of the nose, around 1 inch (3 cm)
Width of the inferior jawbone, around 1 inch (3 cm)
Length of the incisor, around 1 inch (3 cm)
Length of the inferior jawbone,
0.53 inch (1.35 cm)
Length of the superior jawbone, around 1 inch (3 cm)
Length of the tongue from the root, 15 inches (38 cm)
Width of the eyes, around 1 inch (3 cm)
Width of the head, 7 inches (18 cm)
Hind legs, first and second joints, around 7 inches (18 cm)
Hind legs, third joint to the nails, 10 inches (25 cm)
Width of the legs, around 4 inches (10 cm)
From the « chataigne » (?)  to the end of the leg, 6 inches (15 cm)
(1 foot = 30
.48 cm; 1 inch = 2.54 cm)

The upper jaw is filled with 6 incisors. The sixth one is longer than the others. Presence of two straps or hooks away from the incisors, one inch tall and with a diameter of half an inch; three grinding teeth (one small and two large ones), the fourth molar is larger than the others and is almost attached to the fifth one (divided in two parts, one part is perpendicular to the other and is directed towards the inside of the palate.

The jowl is filled with 22 teeth, i.e. 6 incisors and on each side a strap also seen in the upper jaw, seven grinding teeth, the first is very small and far from the strap, the next three molars are larger and similar to the second and third upper molars, the fifth is thicker and longer and divided in three parts whose anterior is the shortest, the sixth bares two anterior and lateral protuberances, the seventh is very small. They also noticed that this animal is 2 feet 4 inches tall from the spine to the leg and that its eyes are bright red. »

Second testimony coming from the Archives Départementales of the Puy-de-Dôme: a letter written to the count of ***, about the destruction of the real fierce beast that devastated the Gevaudan.

- « The opening of the mouth was very large, the incisors similar to the ones of a dog, the big teeth tight and irregular, the neck very large and short, filled with harsh hair, extremely long and dense, baring a transverse black stripe going down to the shoulders, the hindquarters resembling to the one of a wolf (except the enormous thickness), front legs shorter than hind legs, thinner than those of an ordinary wolf and covered as the front head with a fawn, smooth and short hair, coloured like a deer, the hair on the body was very thick and long, greyish and black-spotted. The animal had a large white stain, perfectly heart-shaped ». (…)

« We decided to take out its flesh and keep the skeleton. (…)

Surprisingly, the head was remarkable. After removing the teguments, we noticed a bony crest starting at the occiput. It was 7 inches tall and ended up on the front head. We took off a mass of muscular flesh weighing more than 6 pounds and covering the parietal bones. 

These muscles were attached to the jowl and the eyes. When all these fleshy parts were taken off, this head, so monstrous in its natural state, was barely bigger than a fist ». (…)

At Langeac, July 6th, 1767..

References :

« The Beast of Gevaudan », by François Fabre, publication completed by Jean Richard. Edition De Borée, 2002.

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