In the years between 1764 and 1767, a real-life monster had brutally savaged the residents of the former province of Gévaudan in the highland region of south-central France. While the creature's first attack was reportedly unsuccessful in killing its intended victim, it did provide a horrific description of it. Some sort of massive, canine-like creature was stalking the villagers out in their fields of the Margeride mountains. And it would remain as elusive as its killing spree grew nightmarishly effective. In a three-year span, contemporary and modern estimates put the death toll anywhere from around 100 to 500 people, mostly women, and children. To add to the fear and suffering, these were no ordinary large animal predator attacks. Considering that only a small percentage of the victims were found partially consumed, with livestock untouched, the bodies of all were so shockingly mutilated that it could be surmised this abomination of nature was not killing out of hunger but for sport. As news of the relentless slaughter spread throughout France, tens of thousands from every walk of life, peasants, soldiers, and noblemen alike, joined in the hunt to stop this menace. Reports had even reached Versaille, where King Louis XV had placed a large bounty on its head. When survivors and eyewitnesses had given their statements, a puzzling picture of the beast emerged. Although many accounts described this creature as having some features like an abnormally large wolf, or wolf-dog hybrid, other details combined didn't fit any known animal. It was also described as the size of a calf or donkey, with reddish hair and a black stripe down its back, giant, razor-sharp teeth set in the gaping mouth of a pig-like head, a tail with a tuft on its end, and talons on its feet. This being was shot and wounded on several occasions at close range only to escape and kill again, adding a supernatural element to the legend. Many believed then as they do now that this animal must have been a canine mutation of some sort. However, without the descriptor of "werewolf" or "skinwalker" added to the story, saying it was just a vicious, big dog leaves an unsatisfactory conclusion. With no remains or taxonomy to define this murderous freak, the only name that could be given to it then is the one that remains today: The Beast of Gévaudan.
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