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The Sydney Morning Herald

PIG OR PANTHER: WHAT THE DEVIL RIPPED ROY?

Author: By COL ALLISON
Date: 17/07/1992
Words: 810
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 4
Rockley police are convinced Mr Roy Arrow, 72, was attacked in pitch darkness by a wild pig as he gathered firewood one night this week. Others -including Mr Arrow - are not so sure.

Police say pig's spoor indicates that the old digger disturbed a young boar enjoying a gratis feed of chicken pellets in a shed in the backyard of his home at Mt David, near Bathurst.

The victim looked yesterday as though he had been set upon by a werewolf as he recovered in Oberon Hospital from innumerable rips, bites and gouges.

"I thought it was a pig, too, but I don't think so now," he told the Herald from his hospital bed.

"I remember the ears distinctly. They weren't long and bristle-haired like a boar's. When I grabbed hold of them they were short and soft haired like a cat's. I reckon maybe I got hit by a big feral cat."

"Close, very close," said the naturalist Mr Rex Gilroy, who is setting up his Unknown Animals Research Centre and Museum near Tamworth.

Mr Gilroy, 48, smiled in quiet satisfaction yesterday. The man who has for 34 years studied the yowie or bunyip - a hairy hominid "big foot" of Aboriginal legend - believes he knows what it really was that ripped up Mr Arrow so badly that he needed 50 stitches and a couple of weeks to recuperate

"It sounds to me like he was attacked by the Oberon panther. He must have surprised it on the prowl, because it's normally very shy. But a dozen or so people have spotted the big black cat between Oberon and Bathurst in the last three months."

If it was the Oberon panther - or the other legendary cat that lives nearby, the Tarana tiger, or perhaps the Mt David lion, or even one of the genuine Tasmanian tigers that Mr Gilroy insists still survive in the district- everyone agrees it was small one. A kitten, perhaps?

Dressed only in his pyjamas and slippers, Mr Arrow was crash tackled below the knees from behind by a snarling bundle of teeth and talons at 8.15 pm last Tuesday.

"It was very dark at the time and I didn't get a good chance to see what hit me, but it was definitely an animal of some kind," he said.

"It had me pinned to the ground. I kicked at it with my feet until I got my bearings. I was able to grab both its ears and give him a good hard pull before reaching down for a stick and pushing it in its mouth. Eventually it racked off and left me alone."

His wife was away in town, and Mr Arrow collapsed in his bed, where his daughter found him the next morning. "She got a real shock when she saw the condition I was in," he said.

The attack has been the talk of the small rural community. Some people are convinced he was flattened by something more exotic than a porker with a trip-wire temper.

Mr Gilroy says a whole bunch of mysterious creatures inhabit densely covered pockets of the Great Divide between Kangaroo Valley in the Wollangambe wilderness area.

"They go under many different local names, but what we have are three distinct groups of Australian carnivores with origins in the ice ages," he said.

"There's the marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex , nicknamed the Blue Mountains lion by the early settlers. There have been innumerable sighting of him over the years in the Burragorang, Megalong and Kanimbla valleys extending north of Lithgow and west behind the vast Jenolan-Kanangra wildernesses.

"Another form is the Australian panther, which is usually black in colour rather than tawny and more leopard-like than lion-like. And, of course, there's the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine . They're still on the mainland, but they normally stay away from people.

"I saw my first one, a big striped male, on the night of Tuesday, February 27, 1972, at 10.55 pm while driving down Hill 33 near Blackheath.

"It stood and looked at me from the bush beside the road for a full 30 seconds. It was magnificent. The tigers live in the Megalong and Grose valleys."

Whatever attacked Mr Arrow, he counts himself lucky to be alive. And when next he ventures out at night into his backyard to pick up firewood, rest assured he'll be carrying a torch and a weapon. For you never know when a yowie, a tiger, panther, lion or perhaps just a plain old tusker pig might pay a visit.

 
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