Monday, 5 April 2010
The Early Days of the Australian Yowie
The Aboriginal beliefs in this creature are diverse and often feature elements of the supernatural. One group, the Dulugars of the Suggan Buggan, were not only inclined to kidnap human women for the purpose of mating with them, but would do so by flying through the air. The Yalanji people, on the other hand, think that the Quinkin is taller than a tree. The Yaroma travelled in pairs, standing back to back and moving in a series of great leaps. It had a mouth so large that it could – and did – swallow men whole. Clearly these stories owe much to myth and folklore, but that does not mean meant that there is no basis of fact behind them.
The very few reports of sightings of a Yowie, or similar creature, to come out of Aborigine people before their areas were overrun by European settlers talk of a rather more mundane creature. Black Harry, a leader of the Ngunnawal people, reported that in about 1847 he had seen a group of warriors attack and kill one of these creatures on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. He said that the mystery creature was “like a black man, but covered all over with grey hair”.
By the time that European settlers were moving into Aborigine lands during the 19th century, the picture had got a bit confused. A hugely popular book of the time, Gulliver’s Travels, talked about an entirely fictional race of hairy giant men called Yahoos who lived on an island in the Pacific. Some of the early settlers began to refer to the mysterious large hairy creature reported by Aborigines as “Yahoos” and assumed that they were talking about hairy giants, even if the evidence did not support this.
In 1848 W. Sutton reported that one of his shepherds and come across a “hairy man” in the Bush near Cudgegong, New South Wales (NSW). The man’s dogs had run away from the creature, which then wandered off. In 1856 William Collin was camped near Port Hacking in New South Wales when they saw a “wild man of the woods”. In 1860 a Miss Derrincourt saw “something in the shape of a very tall man, seemingly covered with a coat of hair ... a Yahoo or some such.” In 1871 George Osborne was riding through Bush near Avondale, NSW, when he watched an ape-like creature climb down from a tree. In 1876 on the Laachlan River no less than nine Europeans saw “an inhuman, unearthly looking being bearing in every way the shape of a man with a big red face, hands and legs covered with long shaggy hair. The head was covered with dark, grissly hair, the face with shaggy, dark hair, the back and belly with hair of a lighter colour. This devil-devil, or whatever it may be called, doubled round and fled.”
In 1882, came the first clear description of this mysterious animal from a European. H.J. McCooey came across a creature near Batemans Bay, NSW. “My attention was attracted,” McCooey wrote, “by the cries of a number of birds which were pursuing and darting at it. It was partly upright, looking up at the birds, blinking its eyes and making a chattering sound. The creature was nearly 5 feet tall and covered with very long black hair which was dirty red or snuff colour about the throat and breast. Its eyes, which were small and restless, were party hidden by matted hair. The length of the arms seemed out of proportion. It would probably have weighed about 8 stone.” McCooey threw a stone at it, and the creature ran off.
In 1912 Charles Harper was camping out on Currickbilly Ridge NSW with two companions when they heard a “low rumbling growl” coming from the darkness. One of the men threw a handful of twigs on to the embers of the camp fire, causing flames to spring up and illuminate the creature that had been making the noise. Harper later recorded it as being “a huge man-like animal growling, grimacing and thumping his breast with his huge, hand-like paws. I should say its height would be 5ft 8in to 5ft 10in. Its body, legs and arms were covered with long brownish-red hair which shook with every quivering movement of its body. The hair on its should and back parts appeared in the light of the fire to be jet black and long; but what struck me as most extraordinary was the apparently human shape, but still so very different. The body frame was enormous, indicating immense strength and power of endurance. The arms and forepaws were long and large, and very muscular being covered with shorter hair. The head and face were small but very human. The eyes were large, dark and piercing, deeply set. A most horrible mouth was ornamented with two large and long canine teeth. When the jaws were closed they protruded over the lower lip.” The creature stood watching the men for a few seconds, then dropped to all fours and raced off in to the bush.
This is an extract from Bigfoot and other Mysterious Creatures by Rupert Matthews.