Australia’s Mysterious Bunyip!

The Bunyip … a chameleon cryptid?

In 1847, the Australian Museum in Sydney displayed what was claimed to be the skull of a bunyip. The supposed skull was on display for just two days, before being quietly removed. An article appearing in The Sydney Morning Herald about the skull prompted many witnesses to speak of their own encounters with the elusive creature. Before long, the bunyip had become a subject of fascination with the Australian public.

The bunyip has long been feared by the first inhabitants of Australia. It is said to devour humans, sneaking up on unsuspecting victims in silence. Descriptions of the creature varied. It was often described as having a huge body, sometimes covered in fur, sometimes in feathers. Instead of legs, it had flippers.

In a drawing of the bunyip by a Murray River Aboriginal in 1848, the creature was depicted as having a body resembling that of a hippopotamus and a horse-like head. A depiction by a Victorian Aboriginal, however, showed it having the neck and head of an emu. There seemed to be as many differing descriptions of the bunyip as there were sightings.

W. Westgarth, in Australia Felix, published in 1848, described the bunyip as “a huge animal of extraordinary appearance. It had a round head, an elongated neck with a body and tail resembling an ox”.

G. C Mundy writing in Our Antipodes in 1855 depicted the bunyip as “a sort of half horse, half alligator haunting the wide, reedy swamps and lagoons of the interior”.

In The Bulla Bulla Bunyip, published in December 1885, a specimen that had taken up residence outside the town was described as being “bigger than an elephant, in shape like a bullock, with eyes like live coals and tusks like a walrus”.

And the following account was published in The Bunylp at Last! in Brisbane’s Worker on 19 January 1907:

“A strange creature which has a cry like a seal, and very much resembles this well-known amphibious specimen about the head, has been seen in a lagoon at Tumut NSW. The tail is described as being like that of a kangaroo, running from a fair thickness at the root to a taper at the point. The ‘Bunyip,’ as the residents call it, swims rapidly and as it glides along keeping its head above water. Its length, from the tip of the nose to the extremity of the tail, has been set down at about 4 feet, and the colour of the creature is reputed to be black. The animal does not appear to have ears, but if it has they are very small.”

Then, in Hobart’s Mercury on 11 February 1935 an eyewitness described the creature as “neither dog, seal, hyena, nor Tasmanian devil, about the size of a cocker spaniel dog, brindle in colour, with hair so fine that at first it looked as though it had none. The face resembled that of a ferocious dog, but there were two prominent tusks protruding from the bottom jaw.”

So, the bunyip was anywhere from the size of a small dog, to that of an elephant! Perhaps the only common trait of the bunyip was its fierce reputation.

The Register News-Pictorial on 19 September 1929, included the following account of an attack on a dog at Coopers Creek some forty years earlier:

“We rode over to a large waterhole, and the two dogs went in for a swim. Almost immediately one of the dogs was seized by something in the water and dragged under. A violent struggle took place, under the water, which soon become stained with blood. Presently the dog and the ‘thing’ came to the surface, with the dog on top. We grabbed the dog and hauled him out. He was badly cut in the neck and behind the shoulder. All we saw of the ‘thing,’ which disappeared quickly was what appeared to be part of its body, a light brown, smooth surface, much like a saddle-flap in appearance.”

And according to the the Windsor and Richmond Gazette of January 1927, a bunyip living in a swamp near Roberston in the Southern Highlands of NSW may have been responsible for the unexplained disappearance of a stranger.

“A party of men who lived by means of their skill at shooting went out … They returned terrified and related that they came upon the thing basking in the sun, on the side of a hole supposed to be bottomless, situated about the centre of the swamp; and at their approach, the creature, which they stated to approximate the size of a two-year-old steer, and which appeared to possess two short, broad fins or flippers, and in colour was a dirty white or very light grey, took fright and plunged into the hole.”

The article continued: “A stranger to the district called at the rectory and asked to be directed to Kangaloon. While complying with his request he was warned not to attempt to cross the swamp, which looked very easy going from the rectory garden … a bare four miles by that route. Going by the road meant a nine-mile journey. Whether he did so attempt is not known. He was never seen again, and this much is known, he never reached Kangaloon.”

So what exactly is this chameleon-like cryptid? Descriptions vary wildly and it’s interesting to note that not even indigenous accounts of the creature share much in common. Perhaps, the creature is more cultural memory than flesh and blood animal. Maybe stories of long extinct mega fauna have been passed down over thousands of years through the oral traditions and it’s these stories that spawned the rash of sightings by European settlers throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Or perhaps, there are any number of fearsome flippered creatures hiding in the swamps, billabongs, creeks and rivers of the outback.



About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).