Aboriginal legend has it that the Bunyip (more commonly known as Yowies) are creatures that lurk in swamps, creeks, waterholes and riverbeds. The Bunyip emerges at night time, often with terrifying cries and blood curdling screams.
Devouring any animal or human venturing near their home, it is said that women are their favourite prey, most likely because they are more defenceless.
There is no absolute description of Bunyips recorded. They have varied from animal to spirit form. Often the Bunyip has been described as a gorilla-type animal, varying to half human half animal and also as a spirit. The shape, size and colour of the Bunyip varies as much as it's description. Some have reported seeing the Bunyip similar to a fish, with the Bunyip having scales. Another with fur. Some have reported it as having fur, others with feathers. One witness reported seeing the Bunyip as similar to an Elephant, even down to the trunk. One report states the Bunyip as being similar to a giraffe, with its long necks and tail. Others claim to have spotted the Bunyip as having claws and horns. No physical evidence has actually been proven, although scientists suggest that they could have been a Diprotodon, which became extinct about 20,000 years ago. The natives were so frightened by this being, this Bunyip, that even after its extinction, they were too afraid to venture near waterholes. Their dreamtime stories were full of horror and death making it a much feared creature.
When white settlers started to befriend the Aborigines, they were told about this fearsome creature. Settlers were also warned about going near any waterholes at night, or near any known haunts of the Bunyip. Many times when the settler was out in the bushland at night, hearing strange, loud noises, they were sure that the Bunyip was out there, waiting to attack them. The existence of Bunyips was taken very seriously by the white settler.
It is thought the Bunyip legend originated from the era of 1932, during The Great Depression which was happening at this time. Often people would roam into the wilderness trying to avoid the hardships which fell upon many during this time. Some were escaping the law, others were simply travelling through this magnificent country. If the person was hiding from the law, or trying to escape the hardships, often when they heard some-one approaching they would hide. Many hid in the shrubbery, but some also hid in the swamps or lakes. To do this, they would create a snorkel made of bone through which they would breathe. Many times, thinking that their visitors had gone, they would emerge from the water covered with mud and slime. Screaming upon seeing the other person still there, the intruder naturally thought they had stumbled upon a Bunyip. As for the Bunyip having a taste for women above men or animals, it could be explained that the men having been alone for some length of time, took a fancy to the passing woman.
In the coastal town of Geelong, Victoria there was a report in July of 1845 of the finding of unfossilised bone on the banks of a small river. Apparently the bone formed part of the knee joint of an enormous animal. It was reported that a local Aboriginal person was shown the paper where he identified it straight away as a Bunyip bone. He then proceeded to draw a picture of the Bunyip, which is reproduced here.
Another resident of Geelong claimed that he mother had been killed by a Bunyip at Barwon Lakes, just a few miles from Geelong. There are also reports of another local Geelong woman being killed at the Barwon River where the barge crossed to South Geelong.
Yet another local Aboriginal was said to have shown several deep wounds on his breast which were made by the claws of a Bunyip he came across at the Barwon River.
There are several noted disappearances of persons from Lake Modewarre, which many say were the work of the Bunyip.
Many Australians now do not believe in the Bunyip and disregard it as being purely mythological. There are some though, who do still believe in the Bunyip. The Bunyip is quite the celebrity, being touted in children's books, as toys and even making it on to television shows and movies