For centuries, its furry tail was the stuff of fairy tales on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Many generations of shepherds recounted sightings of an elusive metre-long, ring-tailed feline with razor-sharp teeth that would attack their ewes and goats at night. Now, scientists believe they have finally identified the animal as an entirely new species dubbed the “cat-fox”.
Called "Ghjattu volpe” by locals and found in the island’s Asco forest, the furry creature resembles a domestic cat in many ways but has distinguishing features, including a black-tipped tail with two to four rings, "very wide" ears, short whiskers and "highly developed" canine teeth.
“It’s a wonderful discovery,” says Pierre Benedetti of France’s National Hunting and Wildlife agency. “We believe this is a wild natural species - an extremely inconspicuous animal with nocturnal habits.”
The cat-fox had long been part of Corsican shepherds’ mythology, says agency field worker Carlu-Antone Cecchini. “They told stories of how the forest cats would attack the udders of their ewes and goats.”
Not dissimilar to a domestic cat, the ring-tailed feline measures 90 centimetres from head to tail, and its proof of existence is a major relief to shepherds who didn't like accusations of 'crying wolf' or, more accurately, 'crying cat-fox'.
Original source: Telegraph