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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Yowie

Yowie is the somewhat affectionate term for an unidentified hominid reputed to lurk in the Australian wilderness. It is an Australian cryptid similar to the Himalayan Yeti and the North American Bigfoot.

Rather confusingly, "Yowie" (or "Yowie-Whowie") is also the name of a completely different mythological character in native Australian Aboriginal folklore. This version of the Yowie is said to be a bizarre, hybrid beast resembling a cross between a lizard and an ant with big red eyes on the side of his head, big canine teeth and large fangs. It emerges from the ground at night to eat whatever it can find, including humans. This creature's characteristics and legend are sometimes interchangeable with those of the bunyip.

The earliest published reference to the word in its current usage is in Donald Friend's Hillendiana, a collection of writing about the goldfields near Hill End in New South Wales. Friend refers to the "Yowie" as a species of "bunyip", an Aboriginal term used to describe monsters said to dwell in many Australian rivers and lakes. Paranormal enthusiast Rex Gilroy popularized the word in newspaper articles during the 1970s and 1980s.

Reports of Yowie-type creatures are common in the legends and stories of Australian Aboriginal tribes, particularly those of the eastern states of Australia. The mid to late 19th Century saw a wealth of sightings, most describing a large, gorilla-like creature (albeit usually bipedal), which lived in remote mountainous or forested regions. Reports have continued to the present day with the trail of evidence following the pattern familiar to most unidentified hominids around the world – i.e., eyewitness accounts, mysterious footprints of hotly-disputed origin, and a lack of conclusive proof.

Some recently reported Yowie incidents claim that the death and mutilation of household pets, such as dogs, are the result of Yowie attacks. Other people claim that the animals' deaths can be attributed to attacks by wild animals such as dingoes.

Australian Rex Gilroy, a self-proclaimed cryptozoologist, has attempted to popularize the scientific term Gigantopithecus australis for the yowie. He claims to have collected over 3000 reports of them and proposed that they comprise a relict population of extinct ape or Homo species. There is, however, no evidence that Gigantopithecus ever existed in Australia.

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