A major unknown in the equation that represents the case of the Beast of Gevaudan, is the appearance of the beast itself. All searchers look for a chimera with the iconic retails we know of the Beast, such as the black strip on the spine, the white, heart-shaped stain on the chest or the striped fur. But for a better use of these details you must learn a bit about drawing first.
In fact, I found out that every period of time, each generation of people has its own interpretation of the "real" and the world around. It's an evolution that you can also find in the evolution of one human being: first the child scrawls while learning about forms and textures, then the hand becomes more sure, more precise and one may, for the best of us, represent life in a drawing of the quality of a picture. It's maybe because of the massive use of photography (on paper or computer) that the eyes of some drawers are so able to depict exactly what they see. Here is a proof : the drawing of a gorilla that I find so much realistic and made with...a pencil! (drawing by: France Belleville).
But in the eighteenth century, the "outside" world did not have the same impact as today and the ways of representing it changes according to the level knowledge of the drawer. One can notice that Buffon, father of the study of plants and animals, had a naïve way of drawing animals. Not a wrong vision, but a bit "rustic". Below on the left, a stripped hyena according to Buffon himself, on the right, a real stripped hyena.
I have often tried to imagine the Beast, to give her flesh and bones, but there are so many possibilities! The first I ever made was humoristic and was the logo of my website for many years, but for the last three or four years, I try to give my drawings a realistic touch (that I always miss desperately!). As I always worked from the picture of a real dog, the results did never have the right elements and ended in the trash can.
For one of my masterpiece (worthy of "Noddy learns how to draw") I started with the skull digitaly composed by sire Lionel, on which I tried to add the muscle mass. I've been helped by anatomical charts of dog, trying to consider the wieght of 53,4 Kg, but I have to admitt that I hardly understand how the weight and muscle mass are linked. There must be some muscles that are bigger than the ones I did and others smaller but how to be sure?
After this, it was just a matter of fur. So I dove deeply in my books and documents to have the more details: Pourcher and Fabre's books, and the reports of autopsy by maître Marin and the letter from Auvergne. To all the well known details, you must add one that can change everything : the length of the fur. The table bellow shows that to have two sources for the same event is always a good thing: you always get a better idea.
|Part of body||Report by Marin||Letter from Auvergne|
|Neck||"...thick and covered with a very thick fur, color reddish-grey crossed by some black stripes..."||"...lined with a coarse hair, extremely long and bushy..."|
|Legs||"...deer color..."||"...flush and smooth hair, deer color..."|
|Head||not mentionned||"...flush and smooth hair, deer color..."|
|CHest||"...white heart-shaped stain..."||"...white stain in the perfect shape of a heart..."|
|Body||not mentionned||"...very thick and long hair..."|
With all theses details, that's more than I needed to do my work, so I put a fur on my drawing, that was a mix of the two descriptions. You might want to notice that I am no naturalist and that this vision is only theorical. In fact, it only answers to measurements and descriptions to have an idea of it. It looks indeed less than natural, and the colours I chose don't help at all...
I've showed this drawing to many pasionnates I know (and I easily guess the smile on their face when they saw it!), and they all told me that this could be an interpretation. But the result was not satisfying to me. Not enough natural.
And while reading for the nth time the bokk written by MM Mazel and Garcin, I (re) discovered a drawing by Emile Mas. Made with Indian ink in 1960, it shows an animal which, from a muscle point of view, fits perfectly what I need, with a "naturally correct movement". Yet I had to adapt this picture to what I really had in mind. Shorter snout and ears, change the body on which the Beast stands to turn it into a rock, erase the background and add hairs, tons of it...
I've printed several copies of this strange animal because I wanted that the drawings I added to be as soft as the original drawing. A few sheets of paper later, I had the feeling that I was at last facing a picture that fit everything I read and, more important, this animal could explain all the strange testimonies like the lion's mouth, paws of a bear, back of a wolf, etc...
So, wahat was it?
Honnestly I have no idea. I named it ironically "Canis-Ovnis". A canine, for sure, if you consider the autopsy reports. But neither Marin nor the author of the letter from Auvergne were naturalist. Franz, who knows I don't believe in the theory of the "hyena of Gévaudan", answering an e-mail in which I presented this picture, just told me: "[...] you're on the right way. Now Google "stripped hyena" or "hyaena hyaena" and tell me what you think".
True that drawn like this, one can easily understant why some called it "hyena" (but the use of this term in the time of the Beast is subject to contoverse). Also true that the people who studied it (in the castle of Besque) before Marin arrived, have had the time to open it clumsily and take off "all the most curious parts of the animal" (letter from Auvergne).
Did they take off something important ? Something that would have lead them the wrong way from the beginning? We will never know.
We can only imagine different possibilities and say that it "must be something like the mix of it all".
As a conclusion, I may use what Sophie Licari (trainer and fancier who studied dog genetics) told me in her answer to this picture:
"A hybrid of dog and wolf, there are no surprises: it looks more like a wolf, or more like a dog, but it can not have the aspect of a third animal! Nor wolf, nor dog, nor a hybrid of dog and wolf, that's my opinion. So what?...
And that's absolutely true: so what?
But it's only my own personnal private thought!