Man-Eating Teddy Bears of the Scrub: Exploring the Australian Drop Bear Urban Legend




Drop bear, urban legend, Australian folklore, digital legend cycle, vampire


Urban legends are contemporary forms of folklore that are often used to provide lessons in morality or explicate local beliefs, dangers, or customs. In Australia, one such tale describes fiendish, carnivorous, blood-sucking koala-like animals that launch themselves from trees at unsuspecting tourists in the Australian scrub. The drop bear (also known as Thylarctos plummetus or Thylarctos plummetus vampirus) is an urban legend common to tropical Australian scrub regions that serves as a cautionary tale intended to warn against the dangers associated with traversing the Australian bush. As such, the figure of the drop bear represents a uniquely Australian manifestation of the vampire motif. This article examines representations of the drop bear urban legend as provided in contemporary pseudo-scientific, satirical, and popular media sources by means of critical discourse analysis, in addition to exploring how archaeological evidence has been mobilised in support of drop bear narratives. Through a critical review of drop bear tales in accordance with established folklore typologies the paper posits a categorisation of drop bear narratives as urban legend, while also explicating the impacts of social media and the internet on the perpetuation and dissemination of the drop bear legend.

Author Biographies

Catherine Livingston, James Cook University

Catherine Livingston is a PhD Candidate in Archaeology (Experimental Archaeology and Archaeometallurgy) and sessional tutor in Archaeology, Bachelor of Arts foundation subjects and Digital Literacy at James Cook University, Australia.

Felise Goldfinch, James Cook University

Felise Goldfinch is a PhD Candidate in Archaeology (Rock art and Community-based Archaeology) and sessional tutor in Archaeology and Bachelor of Arts foundation subjects at James Cook University, Australia.

Rhian Morgan, James Cook University

Dr Rhian Morgan is a Digital Anthropologist, UX researcher, and lecturer in Digital Literacy at James Cook University, Australia.


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How to Cite

Livingston, C., Goldfinch, F., & Morgan, R. (2017). Man-Eating Teddy Bears of the Scrub: Exploring the Australian Drop Bear Urban Legend. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 16(1).