Did a 'werewolf' really terrorize France in the 1700s?

The savage 'Beast of Gévaudan' rampaged across the French countryside between 1764 and 1767 and killed as many as a hundred people. The true nature of the attacks and the creature itself remains a mystery.

In this 18th-century engraving, royal huntsman François Antoine kills the wolf believed to be the beast in 1765. Two months later, the beast returned to terrorize France again.
AKG/Album

Jeanne Boulet, a fourteen-year-old shepherd girl, was tending livestock in the wooded valleys near the Allier River in the Gévaudan region of central southern France one day in June 1764. Her badly injured body was later discovered, the victim of an apparent wolf attack. Her death did not seem unusual at the time. Children often shepherded sheep or cattle by themselves, and wolves were part of the hazards of rural life.

More fatalities like Boulet’s followed with severe injuries, dismemberments, and even decapitations. Whatever this deadly creature was, it was far more ferocious than a regular wolf. As whispers of a werewolf began to circulate, the deadly creature became known as la bête, the beast. 

(These imaginary beasts fueled nightmares around the world.)

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