Today there are many graphic images of farm animals having been mauled by out of controlled dogs. This is not just a modern phenomenon. On 12th September 1810, a dog was shot near Rowrah at the bottom end of Ennerdale. It had been on the rampage all that summer eluding many hunts and attempts to kill it. The dog ranged from Ennerdale and Wasdale to Cockermouth to Seascale on the coast. The whole of the western Lake District was terrified. Crops went un-harvested, folks were too scared to send their children to school and cows were not milked. Frequently several sheep were killed in one night and it was sighted taking down a fully grown ram. It was said to be a smooth-haired dog, “tawny mouse” coloured with darker streaks rather “like a tiger”. Of no doubt, it was huge, as cunning as a fox and with acute sight and hearing. It was never heard barking or howling. A brewery owner offered a reward of £10 and free ale to whoever killed it.
After the dog was shot on that autumn day in Rowrah it was carried in triumph to the inn at Ennerdale Bridge where celebrations began which lasted all night. The carcass was weighed at an enormous 8 stones and was eventually sent to Keswick museum to be stuffed and put on display. It was exhibited there as the Girt Dog of Ennerdale.
It has been speculated that the dog was actually a Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine, probably an escapee from a travelling circus which were known to keep such creatures in their menageries. Tasmanian Tigers are now extinct, the last being shot on the island in the 1930s. By the 1950s the Girt Dog of Ennerdale was apparently showing its age for after a few complaints it was removed from the exhibition. No one knows what happened to it after that; which is a pity because modern DNA analysis could have solved the mystery once and for all.