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Wonderful discovery of a new animal

The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: July 12, 1845
Page Number: 2
In our last number we gave an account of the finding of a fragment of the knee joint of some gigantic animal, which from there being no such animal hitherto known to exist in Australia, supposed to be the fossil remains of some early period. Subsequent information, however, coupled with the fact that the bone was in good preservation, and had altogether a recent appearance, has induced us to alter our opinion.

On the bone being shown to an intelligent black, he at once recognised it as belonging to the "Bunyip" which he declared he had seen. On being requested to make a drawing of it, he did so without hesitation. The bone and the picture were shown separately to different blacks, who had no opportunity of communicating with each other, and they one and all recognized the bone and picture as belonging to the "bunyip", repeating the name without variation. One declared that he knew where the whole of the bones of one animal were to be found ; another stated that his mother was killed by one of them, at the Barwon Lakes within a few miles of Geelong, and that another woman was killed on the very spot where the punt crosses the Barwon, at South Geelong. The most direct evidence of all was that of Mumbowran, who showed several deep wounds on his breast made by the claws of the animal. Another statement was made, that a mare, the property of Mr. Furlong, was about six years ago seized by one of these animals on the banks of the Little River, and only escaped with a broken leg.

They say that the reason why no white man has ever yet seen it, is because it is amphibious, and does not come on land except on extremely hot days when it basks on the bank ; but on the slightest noise or whisper they roll gently over into the water, scarcely creating a ripple. We have adduced these authorities, before giving a description of the animal, lest, from its strange, grotesque, and nondescript character, the reader should have at once set down the whole as fiction.

The Bunyip, then, is represented as uniting the characteristics of a bird and 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. Its breast is said to be covered with different coloured feathers ; but the probability is that the blacks have not had a sufficiently near view to ascertain whether this appearances might not arise from hair or scales.

They describe it as laying eggs of double the size of the emu's egg, of a pale blue colour; these eggs they frequently meet with, but as they are "no good for eating," the black boys set them up for a mark, and throw stones at them. We intend, in a few days, to give a lithographic facsimile of the drawing made by the black, so that out bush readers may be enabled to question the blacks in their neighbourhood, and should any new facets be elicited, we shall take it as a favour in any one who may transmit an account of them to us for publication.
A sketch of a Bunyip seen at Barwon Lakes.(As published in the Geelong Advertiser)
The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: January 21, 1847
Page Number: 2
From the earliest date of our intercourse with the aborigines there has always been a traditional rumour amongst them of a creature hitherto supposed to be fabulous, and many extraordinary stories have from time to time been current as to the conformation and habits of this animal. Speculation and enquiry have been on the rack to find out, first - whether there was any reasonable foundation for these traditional rumours; and secondly - supposing the animal to exist, to what genus or species of animals does it belong?
At the Hunter's River the reports of the natives would lead us to classify it with the carnivorous species. In this locality it is calledYaa-hoo, and is described as having much resemblance in form to the human figure, but with frightful features - the feet like those of a man, but reversed or turned backwards. In the immediate neighbourhood of the river the animal is called Wowee Wowee, and the blacks picture its haunts and habits as purely aquatic. It is a fact well known to residents and others near that river that the aborigines will not readily venture into the deep and dark pools which remain when its bed is partially dried up.
On the Murrumbidgee River, especially on the lower parts, rumours of the existence of this animal are more than usually rife, and there the aborigines far and wide describe the creature as inhabiting the waters. From their account it has a head and neck like an emu, with a long and flowing mane - feeding on crayfish (with which the river abounds) and occasionally on a stray blackfellow ; that it inhabits the darkest and deepest parts of the river, and in some of the lakes and lagoons that longest retain water. This account appears to be "nearer the mark" than any other we have met with, and the facts and circumstances we are about to detail will settle the question as to whether such a creature ever existed or not.
An animal never yet described by any naturalist "lives, moves, and has its being" at the present day, in the continent of New Holland, or, in the most sceptical point of view, it is clear that it cannot be very long since such an animal did live, in the land or water of the "Terra Australis incognita." At the station of Mr. Hobler, on Lake Paika, (situated some 25 miles below the junction of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee) it has been observed that the natives have ever evinced a strong disinclination to bathe in the lake, alleging that the Kine Pratie would attack and devour them, and some short time since two of Mr. Hobler's servants solemnly asserted that, on looking early one morning across the lake, they espied on the other side of it, two animals which they at first supposed to be two horses, but, being puzzled about the movements of the creatures, they rode round to satisfy themselves on the subject, but, on arriving at the spot they could discover no tracks or trace of any animal whatever.
If what they saw, or fancied they saw, were horses, it is probable that they would have left some traces behind them, but as no traces were found, the only conclusion to be arrived at is, either that the creatures they saw were aquatic animals and seen on the water, or that the whole was an optical delusion. Now we may easily suppose that one man's sight and senses may be imposed on, or perverted, but that the sight and senses of two men could be simultaneously and similarly deceived in open day light, is a matter of no very easy belief. Mr. Hobler writes thus -
"Two Kino Praties have been seen at the same time at Paika, and that there is such a creature, we are now sure, as the skull of one, evidently of recent date, and therefore in perfect preservation, has been seen by Mr. Phelps, a settler in the neighbourhood, and Mr. Stack, brother to the Rev. Mr. Stack, at Maitland - it was picked up near Waldare, and is in the possession of Mr. Fletcher. Another was picked up by one of the Adelaide travellers, who very sagaciously threw it away, but thinks he can find it again. Mr. Hobler offered to purchase the skull of Mr. Fletcher, who well knowing the value of the prize he had got, would not so much as listen to his offer. The skull here alluded to is either in the possession of M. Fletcher, son of Dr. Fletcher, of this town, or of Mr. Gilbert, Secretary of the Mechanics' Institute. It is described as being the skull of an animal of the carnivorous order, as is ascertained from the teeth, with a very large cavity for the brain, and a long protruding bill or jaw, which is broken off before the molares; the lower part is altogether wanting, and so is the top of the skull. Sufficient is however left to show that it belongs to an order of animals not yet described as either of anti or post diluvian existence."
Mr. Hobler also writes, that he has been informed one of these creatures was lately seen at Lake Tarla, situate about eight miles from Lake Paika, making a great disturbance in the water, and that another is known to be in a smaller lake which is fast drying up, somewhere in the same neighbourhood, and that a strict watch is being kept up, with the hope of taking the creature as the element so necessary to its existence recedes. The Weragerie blacks call the creature the Kine Pratie, but the Mut-muts, Watti-wattis, and other tribes, have each their own names for it.
- Communicated to the Port Phillip Patriot.
The apocryphal animal of the interior of New South Wales
by W. H. Hovell
The Sydney Morning Herald
Date: February 9, 1847
Page Number: 3
To the Editors of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Gentlemen, - I need scarcely observe to you that this colony is distinguished by the most grotesque variations of the customary phenomena of nature; birds without wings scour our plains, and marsupial quadrupeds, with claws on their fore paws and talons on their hind legs, like birds, hop on their tails; the moles lay eggs and have duck bills; we have birds with brooms in their mouths in place of tongues; fish for which it is utterly impossible to find a place in the existing systems of scientific men; and salt growing in perfection of the bushes of our forests. Until lately, it was supposed that nearly all our quadrupeds belonged, or were initially related to the glires of Linnaeus; but whilst it was generally known that at least two-thirds of the Australian quadrupeds made their way by springing in the air, it has been but lately that rumours have reached us of a huge animal of the ferae order disporting in a clumsy gambols, and inhabiting the waters of the lakes and rivers of the interior. These rumours have, however, begun to assume a more certain form, and inasmuch as during my recent trip on the banks of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee, and through the Murray district, many details in reference to this apocryphal animal were given to me, I will, with your permission, lay before your readers such particulars as I have been enabled to collect.
The Murrumbidgee blacks assert that a large animal, "big as him bullock," exists in the lakes of that district; they describe it as having a head and long neck like an emu, with a thick mane of hair from the top of the head to the shoulders; four-legged, with three toes on each foot, which is webbed; and having a tail like a horse. They call it the Katenpai, whilst by the Watta Watta tribe (who similarly describe it) it is calledKyenprate; by the Yabala Yabala tribe on the Edward River, it is known as the Tunatbah; whilst the Burrula Burrula tribe call it Dongus. I have been informed that the blacks on the Great Carangamite Lake, in the Portland district, describe a similar animal, which they call the Bunyip; and I have heard various accounts from white men (shepherds and others) who profess to have seen the animal at its gambols in the water. But the following incident has been productive of so tangible a result that, however I may have doubted the exaggerated narratives of some of my informants, I cannot but conclude that some large animal, with which we are yet unacquainted, really exists in the districts I have named.
Mr. Fletcher, who resided on the Lower Murrumbidgee, was told by a tribe of blacks, that they had some time previously killed a Katenpai, on the banks of a lake near the Murrumbidgee. It must be observed that the blacks have had a great dread of the animal, and avoid bathing or fishing in the waters where they assert that it exists. They assured Mr. Fletcher that the remains of the creature would be found in the spot where they had killed it; and, although doubtful of the fact, that gentleman proceeded to the place minutely described by the blacks, and there found a large portion of the skull of some animal, which, to all appearance, had not been dead for any great length of time. No traces of any more bones or other remains could be discovered, but enough was found to prove the existence of the supposed Katenpai. Every black to whom the skull was afterwards shown agreed that it belonged to the dreaded monster of the lakes; and in order to give your readers as accurate a notion as is in my power of all that can be gathered from Mr. Fletcher's discovery, I will request their attention to the following rude sketches of the skull, which was afterwards taken by Mr. Fletcher to Melbourne, and where it will doubtlessly receive the most careful examination from those skilful comparative anatomists, Dr. Hobson and Dr. Greeves.
Figure 1. - Side view of the upper half of the skull. Length from A to B about nine inches, but, from the end of the snout, about two or three inches apparently have been broken off. There are no incisors on the portion of the jaw which remains, but three strong grinders are placed on each side, resembling those of the ox, and nearly as large. The blacks assert that it has enormous tusks; but they are wanting in the portion of the skull represented. Scientific examination will most probably determine whether they did exist. Length from C to D about five inches. The summit of the head, whence the mane flows, is also incomplete. Much of the integurments were still remaining, and traces of blood were visible in several places when I saw the skull, which, I would observe, is extremely thin near the top, increasing in thickness towards the jaw.

Figure 2. - Internal view of the upper half of the skull, inverted.

Figure 3. - Skull seen from above.

Figure 4. - Skull seen from behind.

I have now described as accurately as is in my power, this fragment of the skeleton of the supposed katenpai. I have casually heard that some bones of the anterior and posterior extremeties of a large animal of the mammalia class were sent to Maitland some time since, with a view to their being placed in the Mechanics' Institute, and I can only express a hope that any particulars (trifling soever as they may appear in themselves) will be made public by hose who may be in possession of any proofs of the existence of an animal
which has hitherto been deemed a mere superstitious creation of the native blacks. "Are we to identify the katenpai or bunyip of the west ward with the debbil-debbil of the piscatory tribes of the coast country, whose obscure references to this object of their dread have so long puzzled us?" was a question which suggested itself to me whilst listening to the earnest accounts of the Murrumbidgee blacks, and it is on every account to be desired that those of our bushmen who may discover any further traces of this animal, will take means of placing them in the possession of witnesses regularly trained in anatomical knowledge, and thereby complete another passage in the history of the animal kingdom of Australia.

Before I conclude, I would remark, that when first apprised my Mr. Fletcher of his discovery of the skull, he gave me a sketch made from memory; buth that afterwards the drawings, whence the above woodcuts are taken, were made from the skull itself, under my own direction, at Mr. Gwynne's station, on the Edward River. The exact dimensions were taken (for want of a rule) on slips of paper which I regret to say were mislaid during my journey; but the figures given above are a close approximation to the truth.

W.H. Hovell.
Sydney, February 6.
Colonial abstract
The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane)
Date: March 13, 1847
Page Number: 4
It is said that a petrified specimen of the mysterious Bunyip is in the possession of Mr. Griffin, of Geelong, and that he has received 40 pounds for it.
Colonial News
The Maitland & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW)
Date: April 28, 1847
Page Number: 4
The Bunyip. - Extract from a letter dated Lake Hindmarsh, 23rd March:- "A few evenings since, while enjoying my usual smoke in front of my "wee bark hut," I saw a large animal rise to the surface of the lake, about the centre - it disappeared in a few seconds, so that I could form no exact idea of its dimensions. Could this have been the much talked of "Bunyip?"
The great serpent of the north
Sydney Chronicle
Date: May 26, 1847
Page Number: 1
(From the South Australian.)
Until very lately, it was generally believed that the aboriginal account of an extraordinary animal, known as the Bunyip, was entirely fabulous. The discovery of a skull, however, recently on the Loddon, belonging to a creature as yet unknown to naturalists, has in some degree removed that belief. Indeed, there are few who do not now as strenuously contend that the Bunyip is an existing and moving being, as they formerly declared that it was a mere creature of the superstition and phantasy of the black. Nothing, therefore, regains now to set the question finally at rest but to take a living one. That, no doubt, will be a matter of some little difficulty, especially if, as some who are still sceptical of the published description of his form and make have it, he should turn out to be "very like a whale;" in which case the celebrated Flying Dutchman, with his harpoon, would be a wonderful acquisition to his captor. That there is yet another brute, of whose existences like blacks are as firmly persuaded as of that of the Bunyip; but as his skull has not yet been picked up and submitted to the inspection of a medical board, we must not too hastily set him down among the things that live and be. The name this creature is the "Mindai.". He is described as a serpent of immense size and length, with a black mane, which, by the bye, is also bestowed upon the Bunyp. According to some of our dark authorities, his girth is that of a good-sized gum-tree, and his length that of a spar fit for the main-topmast of a seventy-four ; while others, of a more enlarged conception, declare him to be like a river or a road—a method of expressing their ideas or a thing without a beginning or end, and this circumstance has led some persons to suppose that the Mindai is the black fellows' god or devil. It is certain that they ascribe every evil that may befall them to his agency, and that they promise their enemies that they will endeavour to procure his assistance in effecting their annihilation.
These facts, however, do not disprove his existence, or else in that nations have knelt down and worshiped apes and storks, it must follow that they also are beings of imagination . It is somewhat extraordinary that no black follow has ever acknowledged having seen a Bunyip ; they speak of him from traditionary accounts, while there are many who declare and will firmly maintain that they have actually seen the Mindai.
From the description of such men, he is a serpent about the size and stripe of a large boa-constrictor, with a tuft—like a bunch of emu feathers on his head, and the majority pronounce him to be perfectly harmless. When in the act of progressing, he holds his head in the air to the height of the shoulders off a middle-sized man, looking around him with all the stateliness and majesty of a serpent king. The darkies tells some rather out-of-the-way story, about his sagacity, and are particularly emphatic in describing the affection of the lady Mindai for her young, and its imitating her low whining cry.
The placed of habitation of this interesting reptile is the Marlis, it is perhaps more properly called in Mr. Ham's new chart—the Mallee Scrub. His principal food, they say, consists of the eggs of the Lowan, a bird frequenting the barren plains on and about the Lower Murray ; although, from the manner in which they tell us manage to destroy him, it seems that he has no objection to kangaroo rats, oppossum, emu, kangaroo or even a bit of a tender black fellow. In order to kill him, they place foods of the above description, in as large quantities as they can procure, in his way, and when he is completely surfeited, they stick him to the ground with large spears right through him, and then set fire to the surrounding grass and scrub. And to give an idea of his size and strength, they asserts that, when in his agony, he lashes his tail nn the grounds, the strokes may be heard for miles like the report of musketry.
It is strange that, if such a serpent does exist, it should never yet have been seen by the whites. But then, if he does not exist, the pertinacity of so many different blacks in maintaining that they have seen him is equally strange ; and what is somewhat in favours of his existence is, that those only who do not pretend ever to have seen him, ascribe to him the supernatural qualities and powders above alluded to, and pourtray him of vast and soundless dimensions—while from the lips of those who profess to be acquainted with him by night, we hear of nothing more then a very larger serpent, about which the most, and almost only, extraordinary thing is, that no white man has ever seen one.
It must be recollected, however, that the Mallee Scrub, in which alone the blacks tell us he is to be found, is very little known ; and from the fact of its being impenetrable with horses, very few have ever ventured to explore it, and those few have soon turned back disgusted aand fatigued. Nor is it merely an insignificant patch of scrub to which the animals confines itself, The Mallee forms a desert of some considerable extent, in which there are patches of feed, or small plants, according pasture to the emu and kangaroo—which dwell there - and water, though only in inconsiderable quantities. It must, therefore, be admitted that the Mindai has an equal claim to our attention with the Bunyip - nor can there be any positive grounds for denying the one an equal right with the other to the recently discovered skull, the head of the serpent being, according to the blacks, of

very peculiar shape, and dissimilar from that of other snakes. Indeed, they dwell particularly in their descriptions on this point, and seem to wish to convey the idea of an elevated brow, to the appearance of which the black tuft or crest adds considerably. But to conclude, if no such serpent does exist, the blacks are—to use the highest term—most capital fabulists, and whether he does or not, we have merely ventured to draw the public attention, for the first time, either to a true story of a monster serpent off the Northern deserts, or to the fable of the Mindai, as the case may be.
(Since the above was written, Mr. Bear, jun., informs us that one of his shepherds, a white man, has lately repeatedly seen a monster of this description, which frightened him not a little.)
HOVELL, WILLIAM HILTON (1786-1875), sailor, explorer and settler, was born on 26 April 1786 at Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.
HOBLER, GEORGE (1800-1882), grazier, was born on 6 September 1800 at Islington, London, son of Francis Helvetius Hobler and his wife Mary, née Furby.
Although he is usually credited with an important share in the introduction of the Hereford cattle breed into Australia, Hobler is probably most significant as a man in many ways typical of the settlers and squatters in the period 1825-50 who documented his activities and his difficulties well, for he kept a comprehensive journal, primarily for the benefit of his brother in England. He had the outlook and taste of an English gentleman farmer, being greatly interested in agricultural techniques and fond of shooting, fishing and claret, but his Australian ventures ended in failure, as a result at first of over-speculation in the boom of the late 1830s and later of his inability to overcome the competition of bigger men.
The blacks will not visit this range
Ron Hateley - Fire-stick Farming in Victorian Forests
Letters of Charles Joseph La Trobe. Edited by L. J. Blake. Government of Victoria, Victoriana Series No. 1, 1975. Government Printer, Melbourne. Page 20.
Govt House 23 Jany 1847
You have probably heard the constant rumours of the existence of some unknown beast in the rivers and lakes of P. Phillip – under the native name 'Bunyep' or 'Bunyip'. That there is such an one whether round or square, fat or lean – & that of tolerable size – I have been long convinced. At last, Lonsdale writes me word that they have found the head of one in some stream near Murrumbidgee & that it has been brought down to Melbourne. According to description, it must be a long snouted animal something of this shape:
[from Healy, T. & Cropper, P. (1994) Out of the Shadows: Mystery Animals of Australia. p. 172.]
a long bill-like snout the forehead rising abruptly the eye placed very low – strong grinders, cavity for brain very large. The end of the snout is broken off but the blacks who have seen it say it ought to have two long tusks projecting downward at the termination.It appears to be a recent skull as some of the flesh was on it when found – and search is going to be made for the bones. Now what can this be? They do not give me any dimensions – but state it must be a very large animal.
La Trobe, Charles Joseph, 8 March 1847, in Letters of Charles Joseph La Trobe. Edited by L. J. Blake. Government of Victoria, Victoriana Series No. 1, 1975. Government Printer, Melbourne. Pages 22 and 23.
Melbourne 8 March 1847
The Bunyep's head you will have had in your hands – what do you make of it? I am convinced that we shall get more than one strange animal before we have finished. I have stirred up the friends of the Tasmanian Society and I hope you will find we are capable of acting more to the purpose than formerly, & add something to your means of carrying on the work. Your last number is very interesting.
La Trobe, Charles Joseph, 26 April 1847, in Letters of Charles Joseph La Trobe. Edited by L. J. Blake. Government of Victoria, Victoriana Series No. 1, 1975. Government Printer, Melbourne. Pages 22 and 23.
26 April 1847
I saw the drawings of the Bunyep yesterday at Hobson's. He begins to have some strange misgivings – and really I have the reputation of the 'Tasmanian' so much at heart, that I think I should let the forthcoming number come out without 'the article' – & trust that before another emerges from the Press we may be able to lett [?] you more. There is some jealousy about the shell [sic - PSR] itself of which neither I nor Hobson have as yet caught a glimpse. I promise you that I will do my best endeavour to catch a whole one. It would not do to be caught describing and drawing an abortion.
Charles Joseph La Trobe (1801 - 1875), by W. A. Hirschmann, 1851, courtesy of Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria. H38849/2330.
Ronald Campbell Gunn (1808 - 1881) botanist, public servant and politician,by Thomas Bock, courtesy of State Library of New South Wales. Original : DG 471.
the Yowie-Ocalypse
Revelation in the Age of Bigfoot
A Naked Yowie Project Initiative
In part of north-west Victoria, spiritual belief was probably just as important as difficulty of access and inhospitability. The destroying spirit Mindi [Mindai, Mindie, Mindye], a serpent, was believed to live there:
What the Myndie was to the blacks of the North-Western district, so was the Bun-yip to those dwelling on the coast and near the swamps of the Western district. Both were terrible, and both have their types in existing creatures. The python (Morelia variegata) may be said to represent the fabulous Myndie, and Koor-man (the seal) the Bun-yip.
William Thomas, writing to Charles La Trobe, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony, stated that ‘Of all the beings most dreaded by the blacks, the principal is the Mindye’ Their fear was such that early settlers were warned not to enter country inhabited by the spirit. Charles Browning Hall, a squatter, told La Trobe that he was warned in 1843:
Being thus settled in the Loddon district, in 1843 I formed one of a party … to explore the plains to the north of the Pyrenees, induced thereto by the accounts the blacks gave of a large lake there, which we were anxious to see, in spite of the “mindai”, which they gave us to understand infested it, making a prey of emus and blackfellows, and which the old lubras of the tribe asserted would never allow us to return.
It could easily be assumed that that the story of the Mindi was a ruse to halt the northward progress of invaders like Hall, and it is quite understandable. There is evidence, however, that belief in the Mindi may have been genuine and that it may have had implications concerning exclusion of territory and burning practices.
An undated letter from Thomas to Charles La Trobe contains more detail:
Mr. Assistant-Protector Parker, of the Loddon, has supposedly discovered “in their ceremonies and superstitions the obscure and nearly obliterated relics of the ancient ophiolatry or serpent worship”, and this from the Mindye. The Mindye is certainly considered by them as a visible and invisible being. … The Mindye has its residence, and some old prejudices exist among the aged that a certain family has the power of enchanting or incanting this being.

The family referred to is mentioned by Brough Smyth: ‘A family named Mun-nie Brum-brum was the only one that ever set foot on the territory occupied by Myndie’.
Mindi ‘s influence was not confined to the north-west:
He is under the dominion of PUND-JEL. When PUND-JEL commands him, Myndie will destroy black people – young or old … He is known to all tribes … Myndie has several little creatures of his own kind, which he sends out from time to time to carry diseases and afflictions into tribes which have not acted well in war or in peace.
It therefore appears that in some cases, areas were off-limits: aboriginal populations would have been low, and correspondingly their land management activities would probably have been minimal. In other cases Myndie’s influence may have only been temporary. Despite this, Brough Smyth reported that an area in central Victoria was permanently affected.
Belief in the Mindi may have constrained aboriginal activity in some parts of Victoria, but it may have had a more important effect:
When Myndie is known to be in any district, all the blacks run for their lives. … They set the bush on fire, and run as fast as they can.
There is a range with a well-marked culminating point lying to the north-east of Western Port, which, the Aborigines say, is inhabited by an animal resembling in form a human being, but his body is hard like stone. … The blacks will not visit this range.