Yowie is one of several names for an Australian folklore entity reputed to live in the Outback. The creature has its roots in Aboriginal oral history. In parts of Queensland, they are known as quinkin (or as a type of quinkin), and as joogabinna, in parts of New South Wales they are called Ghindaring, jurrawarra, myngawin, puttikan, doolaga, gulaga and thoolagal. Other names include yaroma, noocoonah, wawee, pangkarlangu, jimbra and tjangara. Yowie-type creatures are common in Aboriginal Australian legends, particularly in the eastern Australian states.
The yowie is usually described as a hairy and ape-like creature standing upright at between 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) and 3.6 m (12 ft). The yowie’s feet are described as much larger than a human’s, but alleged yowie tracks are inconsistent in shape and toe number, and the descriptions of yowie foot and footprints provided by yowie witnesses are even more varied than those of bigfoot. The yowie’s nose is described as wide and flat.
Behaviourally, some report the yowie as timid or shy. Others describe the yowie as sometimes violent or aggressive.
Origins of the term
The origin of the name “yowie” to describe unidentified Australian hominids is unclear. Some nineteenth century writers suggested that it arose through Aboriginal legends. Robert Holden recounts several stories that support this from the nineteenth century, including this European account from 1842:
The natives of Australia … believe in … [the] Yahoo … This being they describe as resembling a man … of nearly the same height, … with long white hair hanging down from the head over the features … the arms as extraordinarily long, furnished at the extremities with great talons, and the feet turned backwards, so that, on flying from man, the imprint of the foot appears as if the being had travelled in the opposite direction. Altogether, they describe it as a hideous monster of an unearthy character and ape-like appearance.
Another story about the name, collected from an Aboriginal source, suggests that the creature is a part of the Dreamtime.
Old Bungaree, a Gunedah Aboriginal … said at one time there were tribes of them [yahoos] and they were the original inhabitants of the country — he said they were the old race of blacks … [The yahoos] and the blacks used to fight and the blacks always beat them, but the yahoo always made away from the blacks being a faster runner mostly.
On the other hand, Jonathan Swift’s yahoos from Gulliver’s Travels, and European traditions of hairy wild men, are also cited as a possible source.
History of sightings
In a column in The Sydney Morning Herald in 1987, columnist Margaret Jones wrote that the first Australian yowie sighting was said to have taken place as early as 1795.
In the 1870s, accounts of “Indigenous Apes” appeared in the Australian Town and Country Journal. The earliest account in November 1876 asked readers; “Who has not heard, from the earliest settlement of the colony, the blacks speaking of some unearthly animal or inhuman creature … namely the Yahoo-Devil Devil, or hairy man of the wood …”
In an article entitled “Australian Apes” appearing six years later, amateur naturalist Henry James McCooey claimed to have seen an “indigenous ape” on the south coast of New South Wales, between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla:
A few days ago I saw one of these strange creatures… on the coast between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla … I should think that if it were standing perfectly upright it would be nearly 5 feet high. It was tailless and covered with very long black hair, which was of a dirty red or snuff-colour about the throat and breast. Its eyes, which were small and restless, were partly hidden by matted hair that covered its head… I threw a stone at the animal, whereupon it immediately rushed off…
McCooey offered to capture an ape for the Australian Museum for £40. According to Robert Holden, a second outbreak of reported ape sightings appeared in 1912. The yowie appeared in Donald Friend’s Hillendiana, a collection of writings about the goldfields near Hill End in New South Wales. Friend refers to the yowie as a species of bunyip. Holden also cites the appearance of the yowie in a number of Australian tall stories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
According to “Top End Yowie investigator” Andrew McGinn, the death and mutilation of a pet dog near Darwin could have been the result of an attack by the mythological Yowie. The dog’s owners believed dingoes were responsible.
Australian Capital Territory
In 2010, a Canberra man said he saw an animal described as “a juvenile covered in hair, with long arms that almost touched the ground” in his garage. A friend later told him it could be a yowie.
New South Wales
Accounts of yowie-sightings in New South Wales include:
In 1977, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald reported that residents on Oxley Island near Taree recently heard screaming noises made by an animal at night. Cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy was mentioned in the article as soon to arrive in the area in search of the mythological yowie.
In 1994, Tim the Yowie Man claimed to have seen a yowie in the Brindabella Ranges.
In 1996, while on a driving holiday, a couple from Newcastle claim to have seen a yowie between Braidwood and the coast. They said it was a shaggy creature, walking upright, standing at a height of at least 2.1 metres tall, with disproportionately long arms and no neck.
In August 2000, a Canberra bushwalker described seeing an unknown bipedal beast in the Brindabella Mountains. The bushwalker, Steve Piper, caught the incident on videotape. That film is known as the ‘Piper Film’.
In March 2011, a witness reported to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service seeing a yowie in the Blue Mountains at Springwood, west of Sydney. The witness had filmed the creature, and taken photographs of its footprints.
In May 2012, a United States television crew claimed it had recorded audio of a yowie in a remote region on the NSW-Queensland border.
In June 2013, a Lismore resident and music videographer claimed to have seen a yowie just north of Bexhill.
In the mid-1970s, the Queanbeyan Festival Board and 2CA together offered a AU$200,000 reward to anyone who could capture and present a yowie: the reward is yet to be claimed.
In the late 1990s, there were several reports of yowie sightings in the area around Acacia Hills. One such sighting was by mango farmer Katrina Tucker who reported in 1997 having been just metres away from a hairy humanoid creature on her property. Photographs of the footprint were collected at the time.
The Springbrook region in south-east Queensland has had more yowie reports than anywhere else in Australia. In 1977, former Queensland Senator Bill O’Chee reported to the Gold Coast Bulletin he had seen a yowie while on a school trip in Springbrook. O’Chee compared the creature he saw to the character Chewbacca from Star Wars. He told reporters that the creature he saw had been over 3 metres tall.
A persistent story is that of the Mulgowie Yowie, which was last reported as having been seen in 2001.
In March 2014, two yowie searchers claimed to have filmed the yowie in South Queensland using an infrared tree camera, collected fur samples, and found large footprints. Later that year, a Gympie man told media he had encountered yowies on several occasions, including conversing with, and teaching some English to, a very large male yowie in the bush north east of Gympie, and several people in Port Douglas claimed to have seen yowies, near Mowbray and at the Rocky Point range.
Prominent yowie hunters
Rex Gilroy. Since the mid-1970s, paranormal enthusiast Rex Gilroy, a self-employed cryptozoologist, has attempted to popularise the yowie. Gilroy claims to have collected over 3000 reports of them and proposed that they comprise a relict population of extinct ape or Homo species. Rex Gilroy believes that the yowie is related to the North American Bigfoot. Along with his partner Heather Gilroy, Gilroy has spent fifty years amassing his yowie collection, saying he has identified four different species of the yowie, which he believes are a sub-species of Homo erectus.
Tim the Yowie Man. A published author who claims to have seen a yowie in the Brindabella Ranges in 1994. Since then, Tim the Yowie Man has investigated yowie sightings and other paranormal phenomena. He also writes a regular column in Australian newspapers The Canberra Times and The Sydney Morning Herald. In 2004, Tim the Yowie Man won a legal case against Cadbury, a popular British confectionery company. Cadbury had claimed that his moniker was too similar to their range of Yowie confectionery.
Gary Opit, ABC Local Radio Wildlife Programmer and environmental scientist.
Rejection of the yowie
Australian historian Graham Joyner maintains the yowie has never existed. He points out that it was unknown before 1975 and that it originated in a misunderstanding.
Joyner’s interest has been in the 19th century phenomenon known as the yahoo (also called the hairy man, Australian ape or Australian gorilla), a shadowy creature then seen as an undiscovered marsupial but one that was presumably extinct by the early 20th century. There is some evidence for its former existence (Joyner 2008, p. 109). His 1977 book The Hairy Man of South Eastern Australia is a collection of documents about the yahoo. It was based on research begun in 1970 and summarised in a paper dated July 1973 (‘Notes on the hairy man, wild man or yahoo’, National Library of Australia MS 3889), at which time the yahoo had long been forgotten and nothing had been heard of the alleged yowie. He has since explained that the book was published to promote the former and to counter, not to endorse, the then new and extraordinary claims about the latter (Joyner 2008, p. 10).
According to Joyner, the notion of the yowie arose following a review in a Sydney newspaper of John Napier’s 1972 book Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, Jonathan Cape, London. In response the field naturalist Rex Gilroy, citing an Aboriginal figure from western and central Australia called the Tjangara, made the astonishing claim that Australia was home to its own Abominable Snowman. However, the image of the enormous primate that Gilroy eventually presented to the Australian public in May 1975 as the yowie, while overtly modelled on exotic forms like the yeti, was apparently inspired by muddled recollections from the newspaper’s readers of much earlier stories about the yahoo (Joyner 2008, pp. 5–8). On this estimation only the yahoo has (or more accurately had) a basis in reality.