Several mythical beasts are thought to originate from animals. Australia with its rich history of fauna is considered an abode of many mythical creatures. One such creature is Bunyip, a water-dwelling beast of terrifying and bizarre qualities assumed to prowl in swamps, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes.
Its name, which comes from the aboriginals, literally means “devil” or “an evil spirit”. The natives of Australia believed it to be a human devouring beast that favored the flesh of women and children. They considered the bunyip to be a night creature that creeps up in the dark and hunts for its prey. They were cautious of their night strolls and visits to the shallow waters and wells.
Some myths describe it as a water spirit that could shape-shift to a massive starfish and some believed it to be a creature with one large eye on its head and a mouth on its belly.
The description of bunyip varies greatly. The earliest accounts of white people describe it as a creature with a crocodile head and a doglike face with tails of a horse, tusks, and a coat of dark fur with a length between 5 to 15 feet. Some reports claimed they have round heads that resemble a bulldog, conspicuous ears, no tail, and whiskers like an otter with a size ranging from 4 to 6 feet. With traits of both water and land-dwelling animal, bunyip has always been considered too ghastly and horrifying with no concrete appearance, as those who have seen the creature up close never survived to tell the tale.
It’s one of the few mythical creatures that support witnesses and proofs to a point where its existence becomes plausible for the people. Along with testimonies of witnesses and news reports there have been discoveries of physical findings. In the 1830s, in the cave of wellington odd hefty fossils were found which were declared by the native historians as those of the bunyips’ but the British archeologists identified the fossils as those of marsupials.
Period drawings and artist’s depictions give terrifying faces to the bunyip which are even grotesque to see. Australia has incorporated the tales of bunyip through various modes in their culture. The Bunyip newspaper and an illustrated children’s book “The Gloomy Bunyip” are to name a few. Be it reality or a myth, the tales of bunyip stretch across the world as widely famous.