Australian aboriginal stories describe the bunyip as an evil spirit which dwells in creeks, swamps, and billabongs. The bunyip's loud bellowing cry terrifies the aborigines. They avoid water sources where they believe a bunyip might live. Some stories suggest the bunyip emerges at night principally to prey on women and children as well as animals.
Many white settlers also claimed encounters with the bunyip. While descriptions of the bunyip vary, most portray a creature with a hairy horse-like head and large body.
Aboriginal stories about the bunyip may reflect oral traditions of the diprotodon, a rhinosceros-sized herbivore. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to have existed. Diprotodon is believed to have become extinct between fifteen and twenty thousand years ago. Memories of encounters between the aborigines and diprotodon might have been passed down through the centuries.
Modern encounters with the bunyip require a different explanation. One is that the diprotodon still exists. Another is that a large unknown animal is responsible for the sightings. A prosaic explanation is that sightings of Bunyips represent encounters with stray seals in inland waterholes and rivers. Another is that Bunyips are actually brigands or bums hiding in the outback.
The Bunyip features prominently in children's literature in Australia. The word "bunyip" has also taken on the meaning of "imposter" in Australian English.
See the Lake Monsters section of my cryptozoology links page for more sites offering information about the Bunyip.
First in a set of four stamps depicting the bunyip. This stamp shows the bunyip of Aboriginal legend.
Second in a set of four stamps depicting the bunyip. This stamp shows a nature spirit bunyip.
Third in a set of four stamps depicting the bunyip. This stamp shows the Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek, which is a well-known children's storybook written by Jenny Wagner and iliustrated by Ron Brooks.
Fourth in a set of four stamps depicting the bunyip. Shows the Diprotodon, a giant rhinoceros-sized marsupial -- presumably extinct -- which may have given rise to Aboriginal stories about the bunyip.
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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.