Bunyips What is a Bunyip?
A bunyip is generally accepted to be a mythical creature, the term originating from the Australian indigenous people. Bunyip sightings have historically been reported to newspapers in many and varying descriptions. It is perhaps the Australian equivalent as that of the Loch ness monster is to Ireland, or Bigfoot/Sasquatch is to North America. The word carries on use today: from the small town of Bunyip in Victoria to the Bunyip River (also located in Victoria) even to Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating in the 1990s describing the opposition party as bunyips!

It is said that the creature was usually found around creeks, shallow waters, rivers and waterholes. Its name goes back to the language used by the Aboriginal people; it means 'devil' or 'spirit.' The creature is said to be vicious and has supernatural powers. It hides in the night; so it may creep on an animal or a human being and devour it. The Bunyip usually lets out dreadful howls before it jumps on its prey; as means of disclosing imminent demise. Aboriginal tribes were afraid to go near any waterholes or wells; they preserved great caution with their night walks.

What does a Bunyip look like?
The Bunyip has been reported as a 'fabulous animal'3Brough Smyth Aborigines of Victoria voli, however the legend commonly describes a meanacing and fearful animal. From a 'half-horse, half-alligator' 4Mundy 1855 to eyewitness accounts of a creature that was 'about half as long again as an ordinary retriever dog' and 'hair all over its body .. jet black and shining, its coat was very long'gould 1872 that which may be attributed to a seal. Earlier sightings offer a description of a 'monster with countless eyes and ears' with sharp claws; the Bunyip runs fast and is cruel, sparing no one either young or old!Lumholtz 1890. The bunyips call to each other using a 'hollow boom' that is often heard near reedy swamps, quietly during the day but loudly at nightThe argus 1894. Whether the bunyip myth originated from a koala or kangaroo, a seal or two is a mystery best left up to you!

Regarding its physical appearance, there is no definite description. Several writings and tales have mentioned the creature; yet, their descriptions seem to differ. Some said that the Bunyip had the size of a crocodile; others claimed that it is merely the size of a huge dog. Although the descriptions are different from each other, they all have something in common: the monster is utterly terrifying! During the 19th century, several sightings of the Bunyip were reported by Australians. They have also found a skull that was supposed to be of relation to the creature. However, the skull got stolen from the Australian Museum in Sydney as soon as it was exhibited. Nowadays, Australians consider such creature to be a work of mythological imagination. However, they do not seem to abandon its lore. They have kept the stories to ponder upon and to scare little children with!

Bunyip images
For thousands of years Aboriginals have told stories about fearsome booming monsters that lived in swamps. Today we call them bunyips.

Bunyip
Bunyip (1935) artist unknown, from the National Library of Australia digital collections

Bunyip

In 1907 the popular magazine The Bookfellow held an Australia-wide competition for the best drawing of a bunyip. The results provided an entertaining menagerie of fanciful as well as ferocious creatures. Selected entries were published throughout four issues of the magazine and the winning entry was judged to be this bizarre creature by an anonymous illustrator.

Diprotodon

Bunyip Stories
The 1849. W. S. Macleay, `Tasmanian journal,' vol. iii. p. 275: "On the skull now exhibited at the Colonial Museum of Sydney as that of the Bunyip." One could say the Bunyip is a terrifying monsterous animal! but they may also say a Bunyip is a magnificient, fabulous animal. It has been described throughout history as a 'fabulous animal', A bunyip is a 'half-horse, half-alligator' that haunts swamps and lagoons in the Australian bush. For thousands of years Aboriginals have told stories about fearsome booming monsters that lived in swamps. Today we call them bunyips. Scientists believe that the bunyip was really an ancient animal called the diprotodon which looked like a wombat but it grew to the size of a rhinoceros and weighed about 2 tonnes (about 2 cars). It was a plant-eater and because it was a marsupial, carried its young in a pouch. The first diprotodon bones were found in 1839 but it was not until 1893 that large numbers of bones were discovered in muddy areas and in places where lakes used to be. Diprotodons lived more than a million years ago. They died out about 20,000 years ago. This was well after Aboriginals came to Australia.

Facts
  • The bunyip is also known as kianpraty
  • The town of Gawler's (South Australia) first newspaper is called "The Bunyip"