During the sixties and seventies, my family of origin went on a lot of camping holidays around WA. We were driving through the wheatbelt during school holiday time in September in the early seventies. We had just passed Dumbleyung. It was late at night and my mother and sister were asleep in the car. I was still awake and my father and I were discussing Donald Campbell's world land speed record on the Lake, which he had witnessed . We drove past the lake only to see a big cat standing in the middle of the road, at the most only 200 metres from the car. It was very clearly illuminated by our headlights.
My father and I couldn't believe our eyes. It resembled a black panther with yellow eyes, and it was huge. It had the sleek body and long tail of a panther. My father slammed on the brakes, waking up my mother. But by the time she asked what was wrong, the big cat had crossed the road to the other side and melted into the shadows of the bush. Its action was extremely graceful. My father turned the car so the headlights went to where the big cat had gone but there was no trace of it. My father waited about 10 minutes, then got out to see if there were any tracks at the side of the road, but there was too much leaf litter there.
My mother didn't believe us. I was twelve at the time, but I still know what I saw. It looked exactly the same as the black panther in the South Perth zoo, only it was a taller and bigger framed animal.
My father's story of its origins was the one his father told him. Urban myth? Who knows.. Some time after the end of the second world war, a travelling circus toured country WA from over east. Travelling up to Perth, some of the carriages of the train were somehow derailed and the crates smashed open. The animals which escaped were a cougar, a panther and its two cubs.
My father and I often talked about the sighting, and from then on, we eagerly followed any reports of sightings or unusual sheep or cattle attacks with great interest.
I am not a fanciful person and neither was my late father. I was never worried about being disbelieved or labelled a "crackpot", so I am happy I have found a site where I can share my experience.