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Mystery big Cat of North Carolina.

Etymology: Possibly originated with J. P. Caldwell, editor of the Statesville (N.C.) Weekly, in 1890.

Physical description: Gray cat, with stripes from end to end.

Behavior: Fond of eating cats, dogs, and livestock.

Distribution: Iredell and Wilkes Counties, Roaring River, Elkin, and Piney Grove, in North Carolina.

Significant sightings: Tongue-in-cheek stories first cropped up in Iredell County from August to October 1890. Later, more matter-of-fact tales circulated in Yakin County in 1897 and Wilkes County in 1899. Most newspaper accounts were vague about who saw what and when. A mystery animal reported in south Iredell County in May 1934 was said to be a Santer or its offspring. Possible explanations:

(1) Newspaper hoaxes to terrorize African-American residents and their children.

(2) Mystery cats, feral Domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus), hybrids, or Eastern Pumas that were sighted later may have been assigned the name Santer in memory of the hoax.

Source: Angelo Capparella III, "The Santer: North Carolina's Own Mystery Cat?" Shadows, no. 4 (January 1977): 1-3, and no. 5 (February 1977): 1-3, on line at http://www.

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