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Sydney, Australia (CNN) — Ask nearly any Australian a few drop bear, they usually’ll probably recount a detailed encounter with this carnivorous, fanged cousin of the Australian koala.

They could describe how a relative was gravely injured throughout a drop bear assault, or declare {that a} pal narrowly escaped loss of life by the hands of the vicious carnivore.

And so they’ll all be mendacity. The drop bear doesn’t exist.

Many international locations have a creature which is rumored to exist however isn’t seen — suppose dragons, yetis and the Loch Ness monster.

However with the drop bear, there is a twist. No Australian truly believes it exists — it is simply used to scare folks, usually of the international selection.

This is the way it normally works: A vacationer is about to move into the bush when an Australian will warn them to “be careful for the drop bears.” After they ask what that’s, the vacationer can be instructed it’s a vicious, clawed creature that drops unexpectedly from timber.

“You get them wanting up on the timber, nervous,” stated Ian Coate, writer and founding father of the web site Mythic Australia. “You get such a phenomenal response, it simply appeals to that Aussie humorousness.”

However some Australians have taken its faux animal hoax to a completely new degree. The Museum of Australia has created a faux info web page on its web site, which warns of the hazards of those fictitious animals.

“As soon as prey is inside view, the Drop Bear will drop as a lot as eight meters to pounce on prime of the unsuspecting sufferer. The preliminary affect usually stuns the prey, permitting it to be bitten on the neck and rapidly subdued,” the web site reads.

Even some Australian celebrities are in on the joke. When CNN Journey requested Australian movie star Chris Hemsworth for recommendation on avoiding drop bears in 2018, he stated: “Convey an umbrella.”

The origins of the drop bear

Regardless of the drop bear’s reputation and rising worldwide repute, its precise origins are unknown.

The drop bear legend would not seem to have been sparked by a selected in style ebook or movie, for instance. In response to the the Nationwide Library of Australia, the primary look of a drop bear in an Australian newspaper is an innocuous itemizing in “The Canberra Occasions,” the paper for the nationwide capital, in 1982..

“TAM — Watch out for drop bears sooner or later, for positive, completely love Clint,” a message in the twenty first Birthdays column reads. It is not clear who TAM or Clint had been.

Some hint the legend of the drop bear again to a sketch by legendary Australian comic and actor Paul Hogan (greatest recognized to foreigners as Crocodile Dundee), on his present “The Paul Hogan Present” which aired within the Nineteen Seventies and 80s.

In a single scene, Hogan is enjoying a parody of Indiana Jones referred to as “Cootamundra Hoges,” who’s exploring the fictional “Valley of Goannas” when he’s attacked by killer koalas.

The koalas leap from the timber and start savaging Hogan, who falls to the bottom coated in them.

However Mythic Australia’s Coate stated that he remembered his scout chief telling him tales of drop bears within the early Nineteen Seventies, earlier than Hogan even went to air.

“Whenever you’re out tenting, the previous drop bear was used once they did not need you to depart the camp grounds too far,” he stated, including he was instructed if he went into the bush, “the drop bears will get you.”

Plainly whereas the drop bear has now turn into a story with which to scare vacationers, it nearly definitely started as a easy ghost story used to spook Australian youngsters. Not each Australian grew up with tales of drop bears, however those that do bear in mind being instructed about drop bears by their mother and father, particularly individuals who grew up within the nation or in farming communities.

Coate stated that a number of the first guests to Australia to be spooked by the drop bear won’t have been vacationers in any respect.

When Coate was within the military within the late Nineteen Eighties as a part of the survey corps, he stated that generally visiting troopers from the UK and US would come over to do workout routines out within the Australian bush and, once they did, they’d ask about easy methods to keep away from Australia’s famously harmful snakes and spiders.

“The Australians would reply, Neglect the snakes and spiders, it is the drop bears you need to look out for,” Coate stated. He recalled telling visiting troopers the one method to maintain away drop bears was to smear the Australian condiment Vegemite on their faces.

“Invariably, our Aussie troopers would chuck the visiting soldier a jar of Vegemite and it might take them a number of days to catch on that they are Vegemite on their face and it wasn’t doing something,” he stated, laughing.

The Drop Bears

There’s, nonetheless, one clear marker of when the legendary drop bears started to enter Australian popular culture.

In 1981, bass participant Chris Toms and his New Zealander pal Johnny Batchelor fashioned a band in Sydney with a post-punk, melodic pop sound — after some deliberation, they determined to call it “The Drop Bears.”

Batchelor stated that till he got here to Australia from New Zealand he had by no means heard of the legendary creature, however he recalled Toms, who had grown up in rural New South Wales, describing it as a little bit of an Australian ghost story.

“(He stated) it was a narrative that individuals would inform to scare you, to inform youngsters and stuff. Inform them you have to be cautious or (the drop bears) will drop down and take you,” Batchelor stated.

They agreed to the identify, however Batchelor stated that he rapidly grew bored with it. After they started to go to radio stations round Australia to advertise their music, he stated the primary query was nearly at all times the identical — “what’s a drop bear?”

Because the Drop Bears tried to attain extra mainstream success, Batchelor stated the identify turned an “albatross round our neck.”

“It felt like a burden, it felt like that wasn’t what we wished to be,” he stated.

Batchelor stated that he thinks the recognition of the drop bear phenomenon is not simply tied to the Australian humorousness but additionally to the satisfaction that the nation takes of their harmful animals.

Even with out the drop bears, Australia is known for its lethal creatures, together with all kinds of sharks, snakes and two of the world’s most toxic spiders.

“They prefer to impress folks from abroad (with their harmful animals),” he stated. “I feel it is much less about telling youngsters now and extra about beware the traveler.”

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The rise of the drop bear

If the Drop Bears had been fashioned simply 20 years later, they won’t have needed to clarify their identify so usually. Within the age of the web, the parable of the drop bear has solely grown in reputation.

In January 2020, in accordance with Google Tendencies, searches for the drop bear overtook each the Loch Ness Monster and the American jackalope when it comes to fictional-creature reputation.

It has been helped alongside by quite a lot of high-profile appearances by the drop bear in Australian media and tradition. In 2004, Bundaberg Rum launched an advert during which a bunch of Australians attempt to strike up a dialog with some enticing German backpackers by warning them concerning the lethal predator.
In 2013, main nature journal Australian Geographic launched an April Idiot’s day article titled, “Drop bears goal vacationers, research says.”
A drop bear -- again, we need to clarify that they are photoshopped and not real -- prepares to ambush Mythic Australia's Ian Coate.

A drop bear — once more, we have to make clear that they’re photoshopped and never actual — prepares to ambush Mythic Australia’s Ian Coate.

Courtesy Mythic Australia

As lately as January 2020, a UK journalist for ITV went viral after she was pranked by an Australian wildlife park, throughout which she was wearing heavy protecting gear earlier than being given a “drop bear” to carry. (It was only a koala.)

It was solely after the visibly nervous journalist handed off the koala that it turned obvious it was only a common animal and never a lethal predator.

With the drop bear joke now even being talked about on common journey websites, Australia’s nationwide joke on the world is spreading sooner than ever. However regardless of not being a fan of his shut affiliation with the faux predator, co-founder of the Drop Bears Batchelor stated that perhaps the parable was shedding a few of its affect because it turned extra extensively recognized.

“(Possibly) it adjustments the facility of it,” Batchelor stated. “You see so many stuff on the web, it would all turn into bland. Whereas when somebody is telling a enjoyable scary story about some scary creature, it is extra actual to you,” he stated.

And in an ironic twist, suggestion has emerged lately that there might have as soon as been a lethal predator in Australia who did drop from timber to assault its prey.

Archaeological proof factors to a prehistoric marsupial lion, named thylacoleo carnifex, which lived and hunted in Australia 1000’s of years in the past, and presumably had the power to climb and leap from timber. Some have steered that is the true origin of the drop bear fantasy.

Mythic Australia’s Coates now writes books for kids concerning the drop bear to assist encourage younger Australians to take satisfaction of their nationwide legends. Coates stated the purpose of the drop bear legend is not simply to scare folks, however quite deliver them collectively.

“It is simply enjoyable that helps construct a relationship, it means two individuals are sharing within the joke … It is that Aussie means of laughing and bringing folks in on a joke and making gentle of a scenario,” he stated.

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