Yowie

WILDMAN of Australia.

Etymology: From the Yuwaalaraay (Australian) yuwi ("dream spirit"). Listed in old Aboriginal glossaries as "ghost or dream spirit." Variations of the term have been used along the New South Wales coast since the 1930s. The Mulgoa and Burragorang peoples referred to the hairy giants as Yowies in the 1960s.

Variant names: Australian bush ape, Bugaloo (in Tasmania), Dulugal, Gooligah (in New South Wales), Hairy man, JlNGARA, Koy-orowen, Makoron koro (in Tasmania), Moolu-wonk (in South Australia), Moomega (in New South Wales), Noocoonah (in South Australia), Quinkin, Wowee-wowee, Yahoo, Yaroma (in New South Wales), Youree, Yowrie, Yowroo, Yuwi.

Physical description: Powerful, thickset build. Most common height, 5-7 feet; 8-9 feet height is frequently reported, and 10-11 feet height is occasionally reported. Covered in brown, tan, white, gray, or black hair. Black skin. Dome-shaped head. Flat face. Minimal forehead and chin. Yellow or red eyes are deeply set. Two large canine teeth. No neck. Broad back with huge shoulders. Breasts not reported. Arms reach almost to the ankles. Arm-hair is long and shaggy. Sharp nails or claws. Spindly legs, with calf short in proportion to thigh. Feet, 18 inches long (Aboriginal legends have them "turned backwards"). Toes are long in proportion to foot.

Behavior: Nocturnal. Solitary. Shuffling gait. Juveniles climb trees. Screams, growls, and grunts. Overpowering stench. Dogs seem particularly afraid of them. Can use a stick.

Tracks: Handprints show a semiopposable thumb and little finger. Footprints often show only three to four toes, each about 5 inches long, with no trace of an opposed big toe. Sizes and shapes vary widely.

Habitat: Mountains and scrubland.

Distribution: Primarily the eastern coastal mountains from southern Queensland to northeastern Victoria.

Significant sightings: An animal with a human face and feet turned backward was known to the Aborigines in 1847.

George Osborne allegedly saw an apelike animal climb out of a tree and run away on all fours near Avondale, New South Wales, in April 1871. It was covered in black hair except for a tan streak from neck to abdomen, and it had feet like an iguana's.

William and Joseph Webb shot at a Yowie near Flea Creek in the Brindabella Range, New South Wales, in about 1885. Its head was set deep between its shoulders, and it was bellowing deeply. They didn't know whether they hit it because it ran away as soon as the gun went off. Its tracks were humanlike, with spreading toes and a long stride.

George Summerell rode up close to a gray-haired Yowie that was drinking from a creek near Creewah, New South Wales, on October 12, 1912; Australian poet and bushman Sydney Wheeler Jephcott visited the spot the next day and was able to make plaster casts of hand- and footprints.

Cast of a supposed YOWIE track made near Springbrook, (Queensland, by Andre Clayden in mid-1998. (Tony Healy/Fortean Picture Library)

On August 7, 1970, Rex Gilroy was eating lunch in a clearing near the Ruined Castle rock formation in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, when a man-sized, apelike creature with orange hair ran across the open ground and gave out a scream.

Alwyn Richards and his sister saw a 9-foot Yowie staring at them near Killawarra, New South Wales, in 1974. It stepped over a 4-foot fence without breaking stride.

On August 10, 1977, in Woodenbong, Queensland, a woman was awakened by hearing her dog yelping and a high-pitched screaming outside. Only about 5 feet away from her back door, she saw a bad-smelling, apelike creature covered with brownish hair holding her dog tightly to its chest. When it saw her, it dropped the dog and backed away, watching her intently. It made some deep grunts and then ran out into the street, its arms hanging loose. The witness said it was 6 feet tall, with a small head, broad chest, narrow hips, and strong legs. Its hair was close-cropped except on its arms and shoulders. She had to wash her dog with antiseptic to get the smell out. Her husband heard the grunts, and neighbors heard the barking. One footprint, 8.5 inches long and slightly over 4 inches wide at the toes, remained, along with three strands of long, reddish hair on a fencepost.

Twenty students (one of whom later became a senator) at Koonjewarre Campgrounds near Springbrook, Queensland, saw a 9-foot Yowie approach their cabin several times on October 22-23, 1977. It ripped 3-foot-tall shrubs out of the dry ground with ease. One time, they watched it through binoculars, and on another occasion, it came within 30 feet of their sleeping quarters. Trapezoidal footprints were found, longer than 13 inches, very narrow at the heel, and more than 7 inches wide at the toes. Other incidents were reported in the same area for the next five months.

Warren Christensen and Tony Solano ran into a 9-foot Yowie while hunting pigs at Sandy Creek near Kilcoy, Queensland, on December 28, 1979. After shooting at it, they found three-toed tracks that were 19 inches long and 6 inches wide.

At 2 A.M. on January 2, 1987, Stella Donahue and Bill Johnstone woke up at their campsite to see an 8-foot ape standing waist-deep in the water at Lake Dulverton, Tasmania.

On January 22, 1995, two boys saw an 8-9-foot Yowie walking along a road bordering the Ballengarra State Forest southwest of Kempsey, New South Wales. It was massive and looked "in between a human and a gorilla." Sixteen footprints 11.8 inches long and 7 inches wide were found at the spot two weeks later. Possible explanations:

(1) Surviving Homo erectus. No indisputably erectus fossils have been found in Australia, though some finds in Java are now dated to only 40,000 years ago. H. erectus used tools and fire, neither of which Yowies seem familiar with. The tallest fossils are less than 6 feet, leaving them on the short end of the Yowie scale.

(2) Surviving Kow Swamp people, an early population of Homo sapiens known from more than forty skeletons found in the late 1960s in a burial ground at Kow Swamp, Victoria. Carbon-dated to only 14,000-9,000 years ago, these individuals have robust features, large teeth and jaws, and crania that exhibit some features characteristic of Homo erectus (prominent browridges, low foreheads, and even sagittal crests in some instances). Some anthropologists conjecture that this was due to artificial deformation, while others speculate that the group has descended from an earlier erectus-sapiens hybrid. In any case, the Kow Swamp people seem too advanced culturally and too modern-looking to account for the Yowie.

(3) Surviving Gigantopithecus, according to Rex Gilroy, who claims to have found a fossil footprint of this giant ape near Kempsey, New South Wales. However, Gigantopithecus lived 1 million-500,000 years ago in China, north Vietnam, and India and is known only from jaw fragments and isolated teeth. The absence of a land bridge, which prevented placental mammals from reaching Australia, would also have been a barrier to the giant ape.

(4) Aborigines may account for a few cases. They are capable of growing profuse beards, though no Yowies are reported to have them. The Aborigines themselves believe the Yowie to be nonhuman. Malcolm Smith cites at least two cases where hairy Europeans were mistaken as wildmen.

(5) An unknown apelike marsupial. One fossil candidate is the Mountain diprotodont (Hulitherium thomasetti), a Late Pleistocene marsupial with a domed head and short muzzle discovered in Papua New Guinea in 1986. Its mobile limbs may have allowed it to stand upright or walk on its hind legs like a bear.

Sources: A Squatter [E. Lloyd], A Visit to the Antipodes (London: Smith, Elder, 1846); "The Bunyip, or Kinepratie," Sydney Morning Herald, January 21, 1847, p. 2; John Gale, An Alpine Excursion: Notes ofa Trip to the Mountains, Rivers, Plains and Caves of the Australian Alps (Queanbeyan, N.S.W.,

Australia: Fallick, Gale, 1903); Frank Chapin Bray, The World ofMyths (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1935), p. 232; Graham Joyner, The Hairy Man of South Eastern Australia (Kingston, A.C.T., Australia: Graham Joyner, 1977); Dan Boyd, "Zowie! Where's the Yowie?" Australian Outdoors and Fishing, June 1978, pp. 82-83; Martin McAdoo, IfOnly Fd Listened to Grandpa: Recollections of the Old Days in the Australian Bush (Sydney, Australia: Lansdowne, 1980); Corinne J. Williams, Grammar of Yuwaalaraay (Canberra: Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1980), p. 156; Colin P. Groves, "The Yahoo, the Yowie, and Reports of Australian Hairy Bipeds," Cryptozoology 5 (1986): 47-54; W. S. Ramson, The Australian National Dictionary (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 761; Colin P. Groves, "On Type I and Type II Errors in Cryptozoology," Cryptozoology 7 (1988): 123-128; Malcolm Smith, "Analysis of the Australian 'Hairy Man' (Yahoo) Data," Cryptozoology 8 (1989): 27-36; Tony Healy and Paul Cropper, Out of the Shadows: Mystery Animals of Australia (Chippendale, N.S.W., Australia: Ironbark, 1994), pp. 113-157; Paul Cropper, "Two Yowie Reports," Cryptozoology Review 1, no. 2 (Autumn 1996): 25-28; Malcolm Smith, Bunyips and Bigfoots: In Search of Australia's Mystery Animals (Alexandria, N.S.W., Australia: Millennium Books, 1996), pp. 143-169; Gary Opit, "Understanding the Yowie Phenomena," May 1999, at http://www.yowiehunters.com/science/ reports/understanding.htm; Rex Gilroy, Giants from the Dreamtime: The Yowie in Myth and Reality (Katoomba, N.S.W., Australia: Uru, 2001); Malcolm Smith, "Apes Down Under? A Report on the Situation in Australia," Crypto Hominology Special, no. 1 (April 7, 2001), pp. 27-29, at http://www.strangeark.com/crypto/ Cryptohominids.pdf; Australian Yowie Research, http://www.yowiehunters.com; Robert Holden and Nicholas Holden, Bunyips: Australia's Folklore of Fear (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2001).

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