First off, hats off to Wikipedia for a great English-language Bete d'Gevaudan article. After previously reading the reliable (not) "cryptid" information that the 18th century French "Beast of Gevaudan" attacks were potentially caused by miraculously late-surviving Eocene predators called mesonychids, such as Andrewsarchus, I featured this in July. I learned about the "Beast" after reading about wolf attacks as part of research for "To Love the Difficult," which will be in Panverse 2. The story is science fiction, by the way, although "wolf attack" might sound like fantasy.
Second, I'm getting all this incoming "Beast of Gevaudan" because of the History Channel MonsterQuest show about the "Beast of Gevaudan."
Recognizing that there must be some type of show on about the "Beast," I was quick to TiVo the show and watched much of it last night. It featured a "cryptozoologist" and a retired police detective (homicide), I believe. The previous MonsterQuest I watched and liked was the undying classic "Hogzilla." Who wouldn't watch that? Hogzilla was probably somebody's former hog, grown way out of proportion and way fugly-hogly.
Anyway, together these two came up with the theory that the Beast was in fact, a two-part monster. The animal part was somebody's exotic pet hyena, somehow trained by the person who historically has been said to have shot the Beast to death with a silver bullet, Jean Chastel. They actually went to a zoological museum somewhere in France (Paris?) and saw stuffed animals from the period, among which were hyenas, which the curator said were basically hybrids and taxidermological fix-ups of several animals in one specimen. He seemed quite willing to say that the Beast was a hyena and showed them several choices, including a long-haired one that looked pretty nasty. They then spent 10 minutes showing how real hyenas crush and eat big bones and pointed up their general viciousness.
So guess what? Amy has a lousy working knowledge of several languages, which means, she can read the French Wikipedia article and compare it to the English version. First of all, the English Wikipedia states that the several beasts (more than one) were wolflike upon being shot and killed, and were thought by most at the time to be wolf-dog hybrids. How big were they? Hmn. The French Wiki says the animals that were killed, including the official Gevaudan Chastel-shot beast, were 140 and 110 pounds - really big for wolves.
Interestingly, the French Wiki also quotes Simon de Ballainvilliers, the superintendent of the province of Auvergne, where Gevaudan was located (I don't think it is a currently-used jurisdiction). M. Ballainvilliers wrote in his report, "Jean Chastel, a native, killed an animal which appeared to be a wolf, but a wolf extraordinary and quite different by his figure and his proportions from the wolves that one sees in this country." This fits - big wolf-dog hybrid. And, if one believes the curator of the museum where the hyenas were located, the hyena was well-known at the time, and there were exotic specimens brought in by various members of the nobility. He had the preserved, stuffed trophies to prove it. So, certainly m. Ballainvilliers would have known if the deceased beast was L'Hyenne - or a hyena. Religious figures at the time called the beast (in langue d'oc - "animal") a "plague" sent by God. But they, like, hadn't seen it. The first formal suggestion that the Beast was a hyena seems to have appeared in an 1819 booklet that also suggested several other exotic, or even extinct, animals. The official contemporary description of the beasts that were killed was "wolves," which we all know to be "loup," eh? Yes, "loup-garou" otherwise known as French-Canadian werewolf. That said, guess what else the French Wiki points up? No remains of the killed "wolves" or "betes" were kept. So, no, the hyena didn't have parts of the Beast. It was just a stuffed hyena. Abel Chevalley and Henri Pourrat are identified in the French Wiki as the originator of the theory that the Beast was an exotic animal that was trained by a person, and that the trainer was either Chastel (fingered in the MonsterQuest show) or Francois-Charles Morangies, the noble who employed Chastel and who supposedly had the deadly menagerie to begin with. The silver bullet, and the hyena, appear to have both been added later on.
There is no way to know if Chastel did train a wolf-dog hybrid, but he probably did not train a hyena. He also probably didn't use a silver bullet at all - something that was included in later fictionalizations, not in contemporary accounts. The beast also popped up many places, and over the course of almost 100 years, yet descriptions did vary, and at least two wolflike animals were killed, one very large, the other pretty darned good-sized. As someone who has seen coyote-dog hybrids and can attest to their substantial size (80-100 pounds), a wolf hybrid would look unusual, be large, and this is what these were. Several wolves, the product of several different large domestic dog, and wolf matings in this area. Let this be a warning: don't unquestioningly believe what you see on Monster Quest. None of them can speak or read a lick of French.