Tales from the WildJuly 24, 2014

You've seen them in the movies, even on television. But that was it.

On July 25, 1851, a diary by an unknown settler described an unusual sight.

"They are short, stout and of very muscular appearance. They are covered in thick black hair ... Their hair and beards are long ... They are completely naked ... the stench of their body is unbearable ... great hunters of the forests and jungles ... They come and go without being seen. They can hide in the undergrowth in such a manner that one can be touched or struck without their person being visible. I am to wonder if these are the same people ... who take people away when they dare enter the forests and jungles ... the women made grunt-like expression during contact ... the child hung to its mother on the breast in the manner of an ape."

The author's account made Australian curious, and it would be talked about for decades. The aborigines call it Yowie, a hominid whose features are similar to Bigfoot. They live in the wilderness, so the story goes. Many dismiss them, believing to be a bloke in gorilla suit. But some see them as a link between primates and humans. They're also part of Aboriginal myths, suggesting that they've been around for very long.

Whoever wrote that diary might be someone like Eric Shipton, a distinguished Himalayan mountaineer and traveller. In 1951, he discovered a huge footprint in Rolwaling Himal, a section of the mountain range in east-central Nepal along the Tibet border. He believed it was a Yeti, but scientists were unconvinced due to lack of concrete evidence. The Abominable Snowman was a facet of popular culture during the nineteenth century, the equivalent of the Bigfoot on the Eurasian continent. A serious conversation would be considered balderdash, but Shipton thought otherwise. The Briton's belief were fueled by his romantic inclinations, which took him to many places.

It's the same with the Yowie, as much of the rugged landscape in Australia's interior is shrouded by legends. A statue of Australia's Bigfoot can be seen in Kilcoy, Queensland, founded by Sir Evan Mackenzie in 1841. It is said to be the home of the creature, with a reported 3,000 sightings throughout the country between 1975 and 1979. Early timber cutters and farmers claimed to have seen it. In December 1979, two Brisbane school boys were on a pig shooting expedition about three miles north of the town when the creature was about half a mile from them. It was about ten feet tall with a kangaroo appearance covered in chocolate-coloured hair. It took giant thumping strides, the sound of which could be heard for several miles. The encounter set the locals talking, giving the place a dubious tourist attraction. (Think Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands.)

More sightings are reported, but the yowie is becoming more of a fodder for tabloids. Many find such story entertaining, but there's no doubt that they're curious.

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