IT’S the stuff of local legend.
And now the so-called ‘Beast of Hayling Island’ has gone on display at The Spring’s museum, in East Street, Havant.
The large feline is a swamp cat killed by a car in West Lane, Hayling, in 1988.
The creature was stuffed and mounted and put in a glass case.
How it came to be there is a complete mystery, as the species is normally found in Lower Egypt, through the Middle East to most of Asia.
The stuffed cat was being kept at the Hampshire County Museum Service store at Chilcomb House, Winchester, where it could be visited for research purposes.
It has now been loaned to Havant museum for a year.
Kate Saunders, heritage manager for The Spring, said: ‘What was the exotic feline doing in the South of England?
‘Sightings and photographic evidence would suggest that quite a few of them are living feral in this country, and could well account for at least some of the reported sightings of “big cats”.
‘Presumably, our swamp cat escaped from someone’s private collection. And it may not be the last, as there have been other tantalising sightings on Hayling before and since.’
Sophie Fullerlove, manager of The Spring, said: ‘We are delighted bring the swamp cat to join our museum collection, and hope that as many people as possible will take the opportunity to come and see this amazing exhibit.’