Between 1764 and 1767, something evil stalked the hills of Gévaudan, France. The so-called Bête du Gévaudan, or Beast of Gévaudan, attacked hundreds of people, often tearing out their throats. No one knew what it was — or how to stop it.
In the spring of 1764, a young woman in the picturesque region of Gévaudan, France reported a harrowing encounter. While herding cattle, she claimed that a terrifying beast had lurched out of the woods — and charged straight at her.
Fortunately, she escaped with her life because the bulls in her herd had scared the creature off. When she later reported the encounter, the young woman described the strange beast as “like a wolf… yet not a wolf.”
Two months later, the mysterious creature returned. But this time, it could not be scared away and killed a young girl tending her flock. Over the next several months, the so-called Bête du Gévaudan, or Beast of Gévaudan, struck again and again. Women and young children were dragged into the woods, only to be found half-eaten or with their throats ripped out.
Following the rash of attacks, some 30,000 volunteers from across the region gathered in Gévaudan with one goal: to hunt, shoot, and kill the Beast.
Unfortunately, the hunters failed to capture the Beast. For the next three years, the creature terrorized the people of Gévaudan, taking victim after victim and eventually killing as many as 300 people. A young boy was discovered partially eaten. A woman — the Beast’s first adult victim — was found dead just feet away from her home.
The lucky few who survived their encounters with the beast described it as much larger than a wolf, with reddish-brown fur and a long, strong tail. They also said it had talons for claws, could walk on its hind legs, and had skin that was able to withstand bullets.
Soon, conditions in Gévaudan grew so dire that hunters came from across France to try and track the beast down. King Louis XV even got involved, sending his personal bodyguard to Gévaudan to slay the beast and put an end to its reign of terror.
In September 1765, the king’s guard did kill what appeared to be a large wolf. For two months, it seemed that the Beast of Gévaudan had truly been slain. However, the attacks soon started up once more — and they were more vicious than ever.
Then, in the summer of 1767, a local hunter shot a wolf-like creature that allegedly had human remains in its stomach and was presumed to be the Beast. After three years of terror, the killings finally stopped for good — but the mystery of the Beast of Gévaudan persists to this day.
Learn more about the ferocious Beast of Gévaudan and the theories surrounding it.