The bunyip is described as a large mythical creature which is sad to lurk near swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds and waterholes. It is the bunyip who appears a part of traditional Aboriginal beliefs and stories throughout Australia.
Bunyips have been much feared and one to defend its home and devour those who invade it. The bunyip also has a lovely taste for women and children, preying for them at night.
The term ‘bunyip’ seems to have stemmed from the Wemba-Wemba or Wergaia language of Aboriginals of South-eastern Australia, with ‘bunyip’ translating to ‘devil’ or ‘evil spirit’. By the 1850’s ‘bunyip’ came to be a word for an impostor or pretender and today we see many things named after this fearsome creature, notably the Bunyip River and a place in the state of Victoria, Bunyip.
When Europeans first settled in Australia the idea that the bunyip of being an unknown animal awaiting discovery was common, and seeing as European settlers were unfamiliar with not only the sights and animals of the large island, but also the sounds where unfamiliar animal calls or cries were thought to be the calls or cries of the bunyip.
During the nineteenth century there were many sightings of the bunyip, with sightings of bunyips taken not so seriously from the early twentieth century where it is thought that those sightings were nothing much other then sightings of fugitives in hiding. The billabongs of the twentieth century was in fact a great place to go to hide if you want to try to hide from the law due to such a place being inhospitable.
People, in fact did hide by billabongs and were called swaggies. These people would take cover under the water of the billabongs whenever they heard of people coming. When it was thought people were gone, it is time to get above water and when one would rise out of the water muck and weeds would cover the person(s). Whomever saw muck and weed covered people coming out of the water would have certainly given anyone a fright, possibly mistaking whoever was coming out of the water as bunyips.
The expression, “Why search for the bunyip?” eventually appeared, probably from the many people who searched to get a body of, or at least a look at, the bunyip which all ended in futile attempts.
Descriptions of the bunyip does have the tendency to vary from person to person. Common features describing the bunyip in newspapers of the nineteenth century is of a dog like face, dark fur, a horse like tail, flippers, and either walrus like tusks, horns or a duck like bill. The Aboriginal people have been asked by others what the bunyip looks like. The Moorundi peoples of the Murray River are said to have described what the bunyip looks like before 1847, where apparently there was difficulties describing the bunyip yet an enormous starfish is what the bunyip was said to look like. Bunyips have also been described being covered in feathers, they have also been described as having scales like of a crocodiles.