One day, when King Arthur stopped to rest by a spring, he was surprised by a sound like thirty baying hounds. A strange animal with a snakes head the body of a leopard the back legs of a lion and the hooves of a deer burst through the underbrush, pursued by king Pellinore. Pellinore had hunted the Questing Beast, as the creature was called, all his life but never managed to capture it. Malory describes it as "the strongeste beste that ever he [Arthur] saw or herde of."
This strange best reappears frequently, beginning with Suite du Merlin and Perlesvaus, in French, Spanish, and Italian romance and in Malory.