Muir, I would hazard a guess she was hairy down South then.... In Britain that went out of fashion in the late eighties, Though I believe Sharron Stone made it popular again in the 1992 film Basic instinct.
A couple of recent experiences of mine have made me think about the "big cat" phenomenon. A few weeks back I was out with the dog when a friendly labrador from one of the farms squeezed himself under a barbed wire fence and then ran/fell/jumped down a bank of approximately 5ft to the track. He left a huge paw print at the bottom in the mud, where he'd obviously landed with some force. He had also left a little tuft of his dark yellow hair on the fence. Easy to see how evidence could be misinterpreted by those who hadn't seen the dog and/or enjoy the idea of it being a big cat.
Then today, out with the dog again on a different lane just after first light. I stopped at a spot that overlooks a narrow field between two areas of woodland. I often see a fox down there and its a nice quiet spot to watch. Today my fox was there. As I watched him I saw movements closer to the foreground. My first instinct said muntjac, but as I watched through the naked eye in the half light I thought maybe badger. It didn't stick around for long enough for me to make my mind up. Obviously it wasn't a big cat, but it demonstrates how difficult it can be to make an accurate identification in some conditions.