'Beast of Berwickshire' is spotted again

A MYSTERIOUS animal has reared its giant guinea pig-like head, four years after The Berwickshire News first reported sightings of a similar-sounding creature.

In 2006 motorist Mark Pentecost saw what looked like a large guinea pig sitting in the middle of the road near Eyemouth. And last week a Reston woman said a similar animal crossed in front of her car, on the Chirnside to Auchencrow road.

Joyce McLean and her daughter Louise were almost at Oldcastles Farm at around 10.30pm on Sunday, June 27, when they spotted the animal they believe to be a capybara - the world's largest rodent.

"We knew it was something strange as soon as it crossed in front of the car," Joyce said. "I knew I had seen something similar in the paper before and when we got back I looked in the archives - it was just the same as Mr Pentecost said, like a giant guinea pig.

"I immediately drew to a stop as I had never seen a creature quite like it before," Joyce explained. "It was just getting on dark and it crossed right in front of us.

"As with Mr Pentecost's sighting in 2006 this creature resembled a huge rodent but with a turned up snout, and had an extremely unusual gait as it hopped past the front of our car."

Weighing in at around 55kg, capybara have a stocky body, about a metre in length and with a height at the shoulder around 60 cm. They range in colour from brown to reddish and their eyes and ears are high on the head.

Joyce admitted she was quite scared of the creature: "It left a trail in the grass to the hedgerow as it disappeared out of sight - the grass immediately flattened when it stood on it," she continued.

"Normally you would get out of the car for a better look but I thought 'no!' It stood about two feet off the ground."

At the time of Mark Pentecost's sighting, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said that there had been previous sightings of another rodent called a coypu, but they said there was a possibility it could have been either because the capybara kept in British wildlife parks are generally allowed to roam around, and so could therefore escape with relative ease.

When Joyce and Louise got home, they looked the capybara up on the internet, and both agreed that the creature they had seen looked more like this than a coypus.

"My husband said it must have been a wild pig but it wasn't that, it didn't walk like a pig does," Joyce insisted. "It resembled a giant guinea pig but with a snout and it had a very distinctive gait.

"My daughter got a capybara up on the internet and that is exactly what it was, I'm quite sure. She had videos of it on youtube and it had the same gait."

Darren McGarry, animal collection manager at Edinburgh Zoo, said: "The capybara is the largest rodent herbivore in the world, feeding on grasses and herbs and is an excellent swimmer. It breeds in water and uses it as a defence, hiding from its predators."

Although Darren pointed out that any capybara roaming Berwickshire couldn't have come from Edinburgh Zoo, as they don't have this species in their collection, he added: "Provided that it has access to water then it is a very adaptable creature.

"There have been numerous sightings of these creatures in the past and they are known to have lived in the wild in the UK."

Joyce McLean conceded: "When you see something like this in the paper you think 'oh aye', but that's what it was, it was the strangest thing. Louise and I were astounded."

She added: "You read these stories and take them with a pinch of salt, but having seen it ourselves we feel very lucky to have witnessed it."