Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Introducing the Yowie

You've all heard of Bigfoot, well say hello (or should that be G'day?) to his Antipodean cousin, the yowie...

Averaging 8 feet tall, the yowie walks upright like a man, but is covered in thick hair like an ape. Its arms are long, and its shoulders broad, its neck barely perceptible. Its features are said to be flattened, and its head dome shaped. It's stronger than a man, can run at breakneck speeds through the bush, and eats both meat and vegetation. It shrieks and grunts, gives off a stench reminiscent of a badly maintained public lavatory, and seems able to perceive infra-red light. Eyewitnesses say it looks a lot like Star Wars' Chewbacca, and it has been a feature of Australian life for centuries.

Aborigines tell stories of hairy men whom they call, among other names, doolaga, jimbra, and jurrawarra. Sometimes both groups lived in harmony, at others they fought. Black Harry Williams, of the Ngambri-Ngunnawal family group, recalled seeing warriors of a neighbouring tribe kill a yowie "like a black man but covered all over with grey hair" in about 1847. The hairy men were more likely to appear before or during stormy weather, and their feet were often believed to face backwards - just to confuse any would be tracker. For many there is still a spiritual aspect to the hairy men, and bad luck is said to visit itself upon any who don't give them the respect they deserve.

White settlers too have long been reporting encounters with giant ape-men, stretching right back into the eighteenth century. Even former Queensland senator, Bill O'Chee, had a run in with a yowie as a schoolboy in 1977. He told the local paper, "About 20 of us saw it. It was about three metres tall, covered in hair, had a flat face and walked to one side in a crab-like style. It smashed small saplings and trees like matchsticks as it careered through the bush." In the years since hundreds more sightings have flooded in, particularly from the Gold Coast and Blue Mountains areas. The latter seems to be home to urbanised yowies, who steal dog food and hassle the residents of Sydney's outer suburbs. One such resident, Neil Frost, talks about his experiences on YouTube.

Tim the Yowie Man
Cryptonaturalist 'Tim the Yowie Man' is the modern face of the yowie phenomena.

So what is it that people are seeing? Theories range from escaped circus gorillas to aliens to unkempt 'back to nature' types. Personally, I think if early hominids had a stab at surviving under the radar anywhere, the deathtrap that is Australia would be the place. (On a continent where nature is constantly out to get you, what's one more murderous animal?)

The problem, as is always the case with cryptozoology, is the lack of evidence. There are no clear photographs, no skeletons, no hair samples, and very few tracks. Those which are found are contradictory. Some tracks show human like feet with five toes, others have just three and look nothing like your typical human footprint. Not that you should discount the yowie's existence on that basis alone. Just check out the Vadoma of Zimbabwe, whose ban on marrying outside the tribe has concentrated the ectrodactyly condition so much that over 1/4 of Vadoma infants are born with split, two toed feet...

The truth, as they say, is out there.

# Australia's Strangest Mysteries (2011) - John Pinkney.
# The Yowie: In Search of Australia's Bigfoot (2011) - Paul Cropper and Tony Healy.

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