Drop bears are commonly said to be unusually large, vicious, carnivorous marsupials related to koalas (although the koala is not a bear) that inhabit treetops and attack their prey by dropping onto their heads from above.[dead link] They are an example of local lore intended to frighten and confuse outsiders and amuse locals, similar to the jackalope, hoop snake, or wild haggis. Stories of attacks by the fictional animal are commonly told to scare tourists.
Various methods suggested to deter drop bear attacks include placing forks in the hair, having Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears or in the armpits, urinating on oneself, and only speaking English in an Australian accent.[full citation needed]
The Australian Museum website has a purportedly serious entry on drop bears in its catalogue of Australian fauna, classifying them as Thylarctos plummetus, "a large, arboreal, predatory marsupial related to the Koala". It describes the creatures as being the size of a very large dog, having coarse orange fur with dark mottling, with powerful forearms for climbing and attacking prey, and a bite made using broad powerful premolars rather than canines. Specifically it states that they weigh 120 kilograms (260 lb) and have a length of 130 centimetres (51 in). The tongue-in-cheek entry was created for "silly season". The Australian Museum later established a small display in the museum itself, exhibiting artefacts which it says "may, or may not, relate to actual Drop Bears".
In popular culture
Australian Geographic ran an article on its website on April Fools' Day 2013 claiming that researchers had found that drop bears were more likely to attack tourists than people with Australian accents. The article was based on a 2012 paper published in Australian Geographer, and despite referencing the Australian Museum entry on drop bears in several places, images included with the Australian Geographic article were sourced from Australian Geographer and did not match the Australian Museum's species description.
- Lang, Anouk (June 2010). "Troping the masculine: Australian animals, the nation, and the popular imagination". Antipodes Volume 24 Issue 1.
- Butler, Susan. The Dinkum Dictionary, p. 98 Text Publishing, 2010.
- Staff Writers. Herald Sun, 24 October 2014. "Australia’s greatest hoaxes: the pranks that tricked a nation".
- Switek, Brian. Slate, "These Horrifying Creatures Ought to Be Movie Stars".
- David Wood, "Yarns spun around campfire", in Country News, byline, 2 May 2005, accessed 4 April 2008
- Janssen, Volker (2012). "Indirect Tracking of Drop Bears Using GNSS Technology". Australian Geographer 43 (4): 445. doi:10.1080/00049182.2012.731307.
- Miller, John, The Lingo Dictionary: Of Favourite Australian Words and Phrases. p. 88. 2011.
- Canberra City News, "Spreading the Myth", 6 August 2003.
- "Animal species: Drop bear". Official site. Australian Museum. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Australian Museum - In the News Dec 2010 Describes the entry on Drop Bears as being inspired by "the 'silly season'".
- Middleton, Amy (1 April 2013). "Drop bears target tourists, study says". Official site. Australian Geographic. Archived from the original on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2013.