The Aboriginal Bunyip of Australia

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Our next cryptid isn’t as widely known as the others, but definitely holds his own—the Aborigines’ Bunyip. Known to lurk in the reedy swamps and lagoons of the internal areas of Australia, the Bunyip preys on women and children and is even known to attack and eat livestock. There have been many sightings of the Bunyip over the years. It’s quite a fearsome creature as you will see. However, there are so many differing opinions on the Bunyip and its appearance that it makes it quite difficult to get an accurate description of the creature.

The word “Bunyip” is derived from the Wergaia of the South-Eastern Aborigines of Australia. The word means devil or evil spirit. In the 1850s it was used as a synonym for imposter or pretender. In the year 1853, this word would even be used when referring to aspiring aristocrats. It has also been referred to as a kianpraty or a wowee. Some of the descriptions were that it was an amphibious creature. Some also suggest it may be human-like. The earliest sightings of the Bunyip claimed it has countless eyes, sharp claws, moves at a fast speed and apparently has a hallow boom that it uses to communicate with what can only be assumed are other Bunyips. It is suggested that it could be a southern cassowary or Australian bittern that some have been known to call the “Bunyip bird”. The cries of this creature are thought to be the cries of a bittern marsh bird.  The Bunyip lurks in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds and waterholes. It hunts people that come too close to the shoreline of the body of water where it lives. It is known to have a taste for women and children. Research has declared the Bunyip to be a prehistoric animal called the “Diprotodon australis”; a creature thought to be extinct. Some aborigines believe this creature to be a blood-thirsty monster, while others claim it’s a punisher sent to Earth as a bringer of justice to the wicked and the abusers of nature/wildlife. This creature is also supposedly in possession of supernatural abilities.

It is said that the origins of this creature are most-likely caused by the appearance of fugitive seals far upstream. The Aborigines, though, have a different story. They believe in the legend of the Bunyip. As the legend goes, there was a man named Bunyip who ate his totem animal. By doing this, he broke the Rainbow Serpent’s greatest law. Because of this, he was banished and got turned into an evil spirit. As this evil spirit, he would lure tribesmen and livestock into the water to attack, kill and eat them.

There have been many sightings of the Bunyip over the years.  There have also been quite a few fossil discoveries over the years lending credibility to this creature’s existence. Most of these sightings are around the south-eastern colonies of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Most of these sightings occurred in the years 1840 – 1850.

In 1818, Hamilton Humes & James Meehan found fossils of a mysterious animal in Lakehurst, New South Wales which resembled a manatee or hippo. This was thought to be the remains of the legendary Bunyip. In the years following there were many more discoveries to be made.

In the year 1830, another such discovery was made. The remains of a supposed Bunyip were found in Wellington Caves. These remains were much larger than that of an ox or buffalo.

Then again in 1845, near Geelong fossils were once more found; this particular find would inspire an article namely Wonderful Discovery of a New Animal. In the article they claimed it was evidence of the Bunyip. They said that the creature laid massive pale blue eggs, had deadly claws, powerful hind legs, a brightly coloured chest and an emu-like head. They even suggested it could be a southern cassowary or Australia bittern.

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Once again, a sighting of the Bunyip would occur in January of 1846. A skull was found in Murrumbridge River nearby Belranald and was put in the Australian Museum in Sydney. The skull found near Belranald would turn out to be the skull of a disfigured calf.

A general consensus can be made about what the Bunyip looks like, but whether or not it’s a real creature as described by so many, albeit confusing, descriptions is something that has stumped so many for years. What they all seem to agree on is that it has an ox-like body with a round head and long sharp claws with a billowing cry. In the year 1933, Charles Fenner suggested that the Bunyip could actually be a leopard or elephant seal as seals can be found as far inland as Overland Corner, Loxton and Conargo.

Bunyip image as found in

There always seems to be a logical reason for the belief in the existence of cryptids and, I must admit, I do believe that some of these theories are quite valid. However, in the case of the Aborigines’ bunyip, I really believe it is either as the legend says or it’s just that, a legend—there is no in-between. The one thing that confused me when I was digging into the Bunyip was all the varying descriptions. Since there appears to be so few official recorded sightings of the Bunyip, it makes it hard to determine its actual appearance. This makes it even harder to determine whether it is real or not. Whether real or not, only you can decide. With all the sightings and 9 distinct descriptions of the creature, there is definitely something out there. Whether it’s as legend says or as science says, still remains to be proven.

2 thoughts on “The Aboriginal Bunyip of Australia”

    1. Hi there. How weird is that? Thanks for the compliment on my colour choices. I intentionally have it those colours. It’s what I had before I changed themes–I’m using Astra theme now. 🤓

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