Is that what a Bunyip looks like? No idea because the descriptions were incredibly varied and I couldn’t find many common factors beyond ‘aquatic’. Not surprising since this is folklore that was spread across Australia. Even the name has regional variations, so you can’t really lock down a single concept.
As I said, the only constant is that the Bunyip is aquatic. This may mean that it’s an aggressive water spirit because people tended to be afraid of it. I did mention that there were a few common factors too. Since they’re aquatic, Bunyips were strong swimmers with either fins or flippers. They have a loud, distinctive call that is similar to a boom or a roar. Women and children were its preferred prey. Beyond all of that, the legends tend to be unique to their region.
There have been a few theories at to the Bunyip’s origins:
- Most sightings describe a creature with a round head, brown or black fur, no tail, and being between 4 to 6 feet long. This description is why some believe the Bunyip was born from seeing seals that wandered up the rivers. If they made it far inland, people unfamiliar with them would assume they’re a strange creature. An elephant seal would really drive this myth considering how big and aggressive they are.
- Other sightings describe a creature with a long neck that is 5 to 15 feet long. They have a head like a horse or emu with more equine features such as mane and tail. This could have come from the fossils of extinct animals found in Australia. It was adding to the bones to make sense of what was found.
- The first written account of the Bunyip described it as laying blue eggs. It had deadly claws, powerful legs, a bird-like head, and a colorful chest? That actually describes the Australian cassowary:
- Just a thought, but another source could have been crocodiles. An aspect of the Bunyip is eating children and livestock that get too close to the shore. That’s exactly what crocodilians do. If it happened when people weren’t looking then they could blame a mysterious creature.
- Finally, another aspect of the Bunyip is the booming call. This may be what people thought was making the call of a bittern marsh bird. It could also be pieces from all of these theories getting mixed together.
There have been plenty of sightings over the years. Oddly enough, these increased when European settlers started showing up and were finding fossils. This began in 1818 when large bones where found and described as being similar to that of a hippo. Of course, this was probably an extinct animal, but it got the ball rolling. Why wouldn’t it? Europeans showed up to see kangaroos, koalas, cassowaries, platypuses, and other unique animals. The possibility of a Bunyip wasn’t off the table if one thinks it’s simply an elusive water predator.
I keep looking up information and it paints so many strange pictures. The Bunyip is a large starfish. It’s also a dog-headed, furry creature. The Bunyip bloodthirsty predator. It’s also a protector of wildlife who devours people who do evil. The Bunyip is a natural animal. It also has supernatural powers such as controlling water levels and hypnotizing humans into being slaves. Your head starts spinning after a while. Guess you can pick your legend and stick to it.