The story of the Beast of Bodmin is based on reports of an animal that looked like a big cat, such as a panther. Sightings were common in the 1980s and 1990s. During the Bodmin Riding Festival, the beast is shown as a large hairy monster, which is pursued through the town by hunters known as “helliers”. Eventually the monster is caught and put on trial for his crimes.
Bodmin Riding is also a major focus for community celebration. A special dance is performed, led by Bodmin Band as they play a tune called ‘Bodmin Riding’. The Bodmin Riding tune is one of the most popular tunes in Cornish music and can be heard at St Ives during its feast day and at Mazey Day in Penzance, when it is played by the Golowan Band.
Bodmin Riding is mentioned in records as far back as the medieval era and was originally a celebration of St Thomas Becket. The older celebration would have looked very different to the one we see today and included a group of horse riders carrying large flower garlands. This may have been linked to the town’s “guilds”: the groups that were in charge of businesses.