A drop bear (or dropbear) is a fictional Australian marsupial commonly said to be an unusually large, vicious, carnivorous koala that inhabit treetops and attack its prey by dropping onto their heads from above. They are an example of local lore intended to frighten and confuse outsiders, and amuse locals, similar to the jackalope, hoop snake, haggis or snipe hunting.
The Drop Bear is described as an arboreal, (tree dwelling) carnivorous mammal of Australia, Phascolarctus Hodgsonii, growing to around 4 feet in height. Believed to have evolved from a similar line to koalas, Drop Bears vary from 3 to 5 feet in hight, but are extremely strong. They are covered in a dense fur, which can range from almost black to the Alpine Drop Bear's snowy white coat. They have broad shoulders and razor sharp claws on all four limbs. They are able to walk for short distances on two legs, but are much faster on *all four, being capable of bursts of speed approaching 60 km/h at full gallop. Their heads are similar to those of koalas, but with enlarged canine teeth, not unlike those of bears or other carnivorous animals. There are no reported photographs of them, and only a select and very lucky few have laid eyes on them and lived to tell the tale.
- The Common Drop Bear is found in wooded areas all over the Australian continent, including Tasmania, and is thought to in fact venture as far north as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It lives in trees, dropping down to feed on kangaroos, wombats, and anything else that walks beneath it.
- The Burrowing Drop Bear is slightly smaller in stature than the common variety, though just as ferocious. It is known to inhabit the drier arid regions of the country, including the deserts of central Australia. It is also fairly common amongst wooded areas, and burrows have been found everywhere from beaches to desert plains. The burrows vary in size according to the individual animal, but the entry hole may be considerably smaller than the actual living space. Holes 30cm in diameter have been known to house Drop Bears 5 feet tall. The animal's extraordinary contorting ability means it is able to crawl through extremely small spaces in search of wombats and rabbits.
- The Alpine Drop Bear grows a special winter coat of almost pure white for camouflage in snowy areas. They have been spotted at lower elevations when the food supply is short, but unlike Common and Burrowing varieties, are able to hibernate for sustained periods. They live in larger burrows than Burrowing Drop Bears, being less able to contort through small openings. During the summer months, they remain in their mountain environment, shedding their white coats and adopting darker furs for camouflage in the lightly treed and grassy plains of the high country.
- The Aquatic Drop Bear, as its name suggests, feeds in and around bodies of water. Lakes, rivers, dams and the Australian coastal waters are home to this variety of Drop Bear. With webbed feet and an water-resistant coat similar to a seal, they are ideally suited to marine life, though still retain the unmistakable Drop Bear physique of four legs, broad shoulders and sharp claws and teeth. Aquatic Drop Bears have attacked canoeists, rafters, fisherman on the bank and in boats, sunbathers and swimmers. Cases such as these are often falsely reported by the media as crocodile or shark attacks, in an effort to avoid the mass hysteria which would almost definitely result from an admission that we have a Drop Bear prob
Drop Bears are not cuddly and friendly, like their cousin the koala. They are vicious, calculating, cold-blooded killers. They generally hide in trees during the day, sleeping on the upper branches out of sight. But in the evening and throughout the night, they hunt by waiting for an unsuspecting victim to walk under the tree - at which point they drop from the branch (hence the colloquial name "dropbear") and begin savaging their prey with claws and teeth in a frenzy of violence. Once the victim has been mauled to death, the dropbear will then eat its fill and move on to a new tree, leaving the corpse lying there like a sack of red rags. Usually dropbears attack smaller prey such as kangaroos and cattle, but they will also attack a full-grown human with no hesitation. If seen, Drop Bears should NOT be approached, as they are easily frightened and likely to attack. Vehicles are known to have been attacked, and being in one is no defence. An adult Drop Bear is able to easily break windows and enter vehicles to extrude would-be meals.
Stories of drop bears are often told to unsuspecting foreign visitors to illustrate Australian morbid humour. It is often suggested that doing ridiculous things like having forks in the hair or Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears will deter the creatures.The only way to get rid of a Drop Bear is to run around in a circle 3 times very quickly. This disorients the Drop Bear and it falls to the ground paralized. Otherwise, if you have a Trip-Snake handy it will sufice as it is the Drop Bears only natural preditor. This story is not just told to guides, scouts and foreign armies, but to all backpacking tourists upon arrival on a tour in Australia.
- During WW-II, the Japanese landed on the northern Australia coast. However, very little combat ensued, as the Japanese were ill prepared for an Australian land invasion. While a number of their forces would have been claimed to snake bites, crocodile attacks and tropical diseases, it is generally beleived that the vast majority of the Japanese forces were defeated by Dropbears, before they even saw Australian troops.
- A legend is told of two Australian bush-men on their annual cattle muster. On this particular night, after setting up camp, one of the bush-men went down to the river to check the fish traps, while the other stayed by the camp fire strumming a tune on his faithful old guitar. Just as he ended his first tune a terrifying scream rang out. Leaving the safety of the camp fire he ran down through the bush to the river to see his mate lying on the ground shaking, with claw marks all over him. After stopping the bleeding and calming his mate down, the horrible truth was revealed. "It was a drop bear" his mate said, in a voice more like a whimper,"I just reached for the first fish trap and all of a sudden, out of that overhanging branch pounced a drop bear." "I fought as hard as I could but it was just too strong and far too fast."."Did ya get a glimpse of it?", the first bushy said. "A bit of a one, It looked a-lot like a koala, but much much meaner." Leaving all their camping gear behind, they speedily trekked out of the bush, back to civilization to tell their story to the local authorities.
Theories and analysis
There are several possible origins of the drop bear myth.
- Some suggest that it is designed to discourage children from straying needlessly below eucalyptus trees, protecting them from the very real danger of getting hit by a falling branch. Arbitrary detachment of old branches is common with certain species of the eucalyptus, which are known as 'widow-makers' for this very reason. Similar theories are attached to the cone from the bunya tree.
- Some suggest that it is a highly aggressive and territorial sub-species of Koalas that evolved from a particularly toxic species of eucalypt. Koalas have been known to fall out of trees, and on the rare occasion may accidentally land on a person. They generally do not attack under such circumstances, but they do tend to be aggressive when provoked, and can do considerable damage with their teeth and claws.
- Another possibility is that the myth is based on a real animal. It appears to have first appeared during the latter half of the 20th century, and may have its origins with Phascolarctos stirtoni, the carnivorous Phascolarctos involus or perhaps Thylacoleo carnifex, which belong to a group of extinct animals known as Australian megafauna. The prehistoric creatures were approximately twice the size of modern koalas. Thylacoleo is thought to have been an arboreal (tree-dwelling) predator that may well have ambushed prey by dropping on it from overhead branches.
- Last but not least, the drop bear might be another term for the Yowie, which many people in Australia believe exists.
Drop bears in popular culture
- Dropbears are mentioned by prisoners in the novel "wikipedia:The Dead of the Night" by John Marsden. The prisoners are attempting to scare the soldier supervising them, and succeed.
- Dropbears appear in the novel wikipedia:The Last Continent by wikipedia:Terry Pratchett. In that novel, the wizard wikipedia:Rincewind travels through the Australia-like continent of Fourecks, and is attacked by some of the creatures while traveling through the desert. Rincewind is wearing the traditional pointed wizard's hat, which serves to protect Rincewind's head from the stunning blow of the bear, and stun the bear itself; when the first bear's attack is unsuccessful, a massive cadre of dropbears begins to fall from the trees out of sheer astonishment. When hearing about this later, the locals insist that drop bears don't really exist.
- The Dropbears was a Sydney, Australia band from 1981 until 1985, with members Johnny Bachelor, Chriss Cross, Jamie Elliot, Phil Hall, Robert Hearne, Michael Knapp and Simon Rudin. They had a minor charting hit with Shall We Go in 1985.
- EV Nova, an Australian-designed 2002 computer game from Ambrosia Software contains attacks from Drop Bears in Auroran Empire space. Buying the Drop Bear Repellant from various Auroran outfitters causes you to get increased chances in being attacked by a Drop Bear.
- A 2004 commercial for wikipedia:Bundaberg Rum showed three Scandinavian women camping under a tree, when four Australian men stated that they shouldn't camp there as there were "drop bears - a bigger meaner koala" and that "they grab your head". Laughing this off they return to setting up camp when "Bundy Bear", the seven-foot tall polar bear mascot for Bundaberg Rum, falls from the tree above. The girls then run in fear into the Australian men's camp. 
- Drop bears (implied to be genetically engineered koalas) are used as an air-to-ground anti-personnel weapon in the Marvel comic wikipedia:Nextwave.
- Drop bears featured repeatedly in webcomic wikipedia:IndieTits by wikipedia:Jeph Jacques in November 2005. When their existence was refuted by one of the characters the others explained that they must be real as they have a dedicated Wikipedia page.
- Drop Bears was the name of a cover band from Brisbane, Australia that was named without the knowledge of the other Australian band by the same name (1997-2003).
- Drop Bear was the name of a track by Sydney underground band wikipedia:Salacious Crumb in 1997. It was from an EP called Brainwash.
- Drop Bear was also the name of a track released in 1999 on wikipedia:Full Cycle Records (FCY021) by Bristol based drum and bass producer wikipedia:DJ Die.
- Drop bears are among the enemies presented in the wikipedia:d20 Menace Manual.
- The wikipedia:Drop Bear Café was an establishment in Darby Street, Newcastle, NSW. The surrounding area has a lot of backpacker accommodation, so the Café mainly catered to tourists.
- Sydney cartoonist Ian Dalkin produced "wikipedia:Derek the Dropbear" for the last 18 months worth of editions of the Sydney Sun newspaper. The Sun folded in the late 80s. Derek the Dropbear is in the process of being relaunched online (2007).
- Drop bears feature in some strips of the webcomic User Friendly, starting April 22nd, 2005
- The hit TV show wikipedia:American Chopper features an episode where the crew from Orange County Choppers are informed of the infamous "Drop Bears". The crew is rather upset and keeps their eyes to the sky.
- The "Hell Paradise Goala" from the wikipedia:Kyo Kara Maoh series resembles a Drop Bear.