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Monday, March 6, 2017

The Mysterious (And Missing) Bunyip Skull

The main thing that can never really be found in regard to cryptids is hard, physical proof. But, there may have been proof of one certain water monster found in the mid-1800s.

The cryptid in question is the Bunyip, an Australian water monster of varying description. The Geelong Advertiser described the creature in July 1845:

"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 a 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, and the blacks say its usual method of killing its prey is by hugging it to death. When in the water is 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."
Other descriptions say the bunyip has a dog-like head, flippers, etc.
A drawing of a vicious bunyip from 1890

But now, on to that possible proof of a bunyip.

In 1846, Atholl Fletcher found a skull on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. Multiple aboriginal groups declared that it was the skull of a bunyip. But scientists would disagree.

Naturalist William S. Macleay examined the skull and said that it was that of of "young camel or deformed colt." Richard Owen, the man famous for giving dinosaurs that name and a sea serpent skeptic, dismissed the skull as that of a calf.
A drawing of the supposed bunyip skull

So what was it? A camel? A deformed colt? A calf? Or a bunyip? Karl Shuker finds this interesting in his book Still in Search of Prehistoric Survivors:


"It is odd that three different identities [not including bunyip] were proffered for the same skull - thus suggesting that it was by no means readily identifiable with a known species."

The skull was taken to the Colonial Museum of Sydney, which is now called the Australian Museum, and was displayed there, attracting huge crowds of viewers. But here the story ends, as no one knows where the skull is today.
Photo of the Australian Museum (as it is now known) c. 1870
Is there a bunyip skull somewhere inside?

So what was the skull from? I have to agree with Shuker and guess that it may have been from an unknown species of animal, since three scientists all looked at it and each said it was something different from what the other two thought.

But what became of the skull? If anyone ever reads this who might now, I'd love to hear from you.


Look for another post in the future on some other supposed Bumyip bones found in the 1800s...

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