Beware the Drop Bear! (And Other Lies Aussies Tell Travellers Down Under)

The Aussie sense of humour is wonderfully tongue in cheek and it involves a lot of making fun of tourists. Most visitors have a vague notion that Australia is a land filled with many strange creatures, some of which can be poisonous and dangerous. What fun-loving Aussie wouldn’t want to take advantage of this by inventing a few more scary creatures, just to mess with their overseas visitors?

If you are heading on your travels down under, do your research to be aware of which Australian creatures are real and which are legendary – so that you can roll your eyes and say, “Yeah right, mate.”

Dropping in For Lunch

Tales of the vicious drop bear, a large and muscular koala with huge sharp canine teeth, have been used to frighten gullible tourists to Australia for years – especially when sitting around a campfire at night in the deep remote outback. The drop bear can grow up to as large as a leopard and it has coarse orange fur with dark markings.

Many visitors to Australia have had a lot of trouble discerning whether drop bears are a legitimate threat or not, because most Australians are in on the joke and will keep up the illusion. Even the Australian Museum has a serious entry on drop bears in its catalogue of fauna – classifying them as Thylarctos Plummetus. Australian Geographic ran an article in 2013 claiming researchers discovered that drop bears were more likely to attack tourists than locals with Australian accents. If you didn’t look closely at the April 1st date on the article, it might make you nervous about your next visit! Or give you a great idea for a Halloween costume.

According to the legend, a Drop Bear will kill you when you least expect it by leaping down from a tree and landing on your shoulders, sinking its enormous fangs into the top of your skull.

But don’t worry, you can ward off a Drop Bear attack by smearing vegemite or even toothpaste behind your ears. This won’t make you look ridiculous at all.

An Aussie once told me the best way to stay alive at night is to sleep in a locked campervan, something which I looked into when researching a trip to the Northern Territory. In case you are heading over there and prone to paranoia and sleepless nights, we suggest actually booking a campervan pick up from Darwin through a site like Drivenow.

hoop-snakeA Snake Tale (Tail) That Never Ends

Just when you thought the idea of poisonous snakes in Australia was nerve-wracking enough, you have the legend of the Hoop Snake. This is a snake that has the ability to grasp its own tail in its mouth and then use rhythmic contractions to form itself into a hoop shape so that it can roll along at a terrifying speed. Hoop snakes have been clocked going over 60mph.

At the tip of a hoop snake’s tail is a highly venomous stinger, which means that the creature is very deadly. In fact, the stinger is so poisonous that if it accidently strikes a tree – the tree will turn black and die.

The existence of the hoop snake has never been accepted by the scientific community. However, if you see one you might get rich! Naturalist Raymond Ditmars has placed $10,000 in a trust fund at a bank in New York for the first person to provide evidence that the hoop snake actually exists.

Of course, there is always the possibility that hoop snakes and drop bears are real and the Australian tourism industry is trying to pretend that they are a myth so that they don’t scare off visitors. After all, they say that truth is stranger than fiction?

What do you think? Do you believe in the existence of these Australian predators? Let us know what you think in the comments.

drop bear photo credit: Kaptain Kobold via photopin cc
hoop snake photo: published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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One Comment

  1. I can totally imagine a group of unsuspecting tourists huddled around a campfire, eyes wide with fear as someone regales them with tales of the drop bear’s razor-sharp teeth and leopard-sized frame basket random. And the April Fool’s article in Australian Geographic? Pure genius! I bet it had a few people packing their bags early.

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