• Anastasia Bale

The Bunyip: Australia's Swamp Cryptid

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

Lurking in the water, it feeds on human flesh...

As with most creatures in Australia, this cryptid is almost too bizarre to be real. In a land full of strange creatures, the bunyip takes the cake.

Also known as a kianpraty, the bunyip is more than a simple legend to those who live in the Land Down Under. This enormous water-dwelling monster devours human flesh, and is especially fond of women and children. Preferring the swamps, billabongs, creeks, and waterholes to the open waters, this scaled, snake like creature hides and waits for its prey to stray from the safety of the shore.

The Aborigines view the bunyip as a protector of the Earth- a guardian sent to punish those who have done wrong and to protect the wildlife. The word bunyip has origins back to the Wemba-Wemba or Wegaia language of the Aboriginal people of Victoria, in South-Easter Australia, where it translates to "devil" or "evil spirit".

The most frequent reports of Bunyip sightings came from the southeastern colonies of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia in the 1840s and 1850s.

Descriptions of bunyips have varied over the years, but all of them seem to center around a rather kitchen-sink style of creature. In 1847, George French Angus gathered a description of a "water spirit" from the Moorundi people of the Murray River. They described it as "much dreaded...it inhabits the Murray. Its most usual form is said to be that of an enormous starfish." (Wikipedia Contributors 2020). Other accounts describe it as having "the head of a crocodile with a dog-like face, tail of a horse, tusks, horns, flippers, and sport[ing] a thick coat of dark fur."(Argie 2016).

Large bones were discovered in a Wellington cave and were thought to be belonging to a bunyip. In 1845, strange fossils were discovered that led one newspaper to declare it a new animal. The Geelong Advertiser published the following description under the headline "Wonderful Discovery Of A New Animal" where an artistic rendition was provided by an Aboriginal man to the magazine, claiming that he immediately recognized the fossil as belonging to a bunyip.

"The Bunyip, then, is represented as uniting the characteristics of a bird and of an alligator. It has a head resembling an emu, with a long bill, at the extremity of which is a transverse projection on each side, with serrated edges like the bone of the stingray. Its body and legs partake of the nature of the alligator. The hind legs are remarkably thick and strong, and the fore legs are much longer, but still of great strength. The extremities are furnished with long claws, but the blacks say its usual method of killing its prey is by hugging it to death. When in the water it swims like a frog, and when on shore it walks on its hind legs with its head erect, in which position it measures twelve or thirteen feet in height." (Wikipedia Contributors 2020).

Even stranger accounts describe the bunyip as having traits of both land- and water-dwelling animals, with long claws and powerful hind legs. More recently, the bunyip has become a beloved legend to much of Australia’s younger generation. A family-friendly cartoon version has graced the pages of several popular children’s books, portraying the bunyip as a weird and wonderful, cuddly, lovable friend. It’s more snuggly than scary, even if it can be a “bad” bunyip sometimes.

Out of all the weird and wonderful cryptid creatures, the bunyip is probably the least likely to ever be confirmed. But at the same time, while evidence for the bunyip's existence isn't strong, the cryptozoology world has worked with far less... What do you think? Is it evolution gone mad, Mother Nature’s practical joke, or all just myth and legend?


Anastasia & Loren

Wait To Panic Podcast

Wait To Panic is a true crime and paranormal podcast where two friends take turns telling stories that just might make your skin crawl. New episodes are released every Sunday at 2 PM.


Wikipedia Contributors. 2020. “Bunyip.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. July 27, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunyip

Argie, Theresa. 2016. “Bunyip: Australia’s Terrifying Cryptid of the Swamp.” Https://The-Line-up.Com. February 26, 2016. https://the-line-up.com/bunyip-australia-cryptid.