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The Queensland tiger is a feliform cryptid reported from eastern Australia, mainly from the montane rainforests ("scrubs") of the Wet Tropics of Queensland↗, where it or a similar animal was known as the yarri (Djirbalngan or Warrgamay: "quoll"). The name punchum was applied to a similar animal on southern Queensland's Gold Coast. The Queensland tiger is usually described as an arboreal, notoriously aggressive cat-like animal about the size of a medium dog, with a striped coat.
First reported in 1871, the Queensland tiger is well-known due to the great number of specimens which were allegedly killed, but almost never retained, by settlers and explorers. When Bernard Heuvelmans covered it in On the Track of Unknown Animals (1955), he referred to the Queensland tiger as the unknown animal closest to official recognition. At this time, it was sometimes described in Australian natural history books. This interest continued for the next two decades, but the cryptid's existence was never proven, and sightings have become less frequent since the late 20th Century, to the extent that some cryptozoologists regard the Queensland tiger as extinct.
The most popular theory regarding this cryptid's identity is that it is or was a modern descendant of the Pleistocene marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex), or a smaller relative, and some cryptozoologists refer to the cryptid itself as Thylacoleo. On the other hand, several Australian naturalists have argued that it is a form of giant dasyurid marsupial, the family containing quolls and the Tasmanian devil. Most controversially, some cryptozoologists have identified the Queensland tiger with the mainland thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus). A similar cryptid, the warrigal, has been reported from the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, and some cryptozoologists also believe that the same animal could explain some sightings of alien big cats in Australia.
- 1 Description
- 2 Physical evidence
- 3 Attestations
- 4 Sightings
- 4.1 Overview
- 4.2 Undated
- 4.3 1864
- 4.4 1871
- 4.5 1872
- 4.6 1896
- 4.7 1900
- 4.8 1920
- 4.9 1926
- 4.10 1932
- 4.11 1940
- 4.12 1954
- 4.13 1967
- 4.14 1968
- 4.15 1969
- 4.16 circa 1970's
- 4.17 1982
- 4.18 1983
- 4.19 1984
- 4.20 circa 1985
- 4.21 1987
- 4.22 1990
- 4.23 1991
- 4.24 1995
- 4.25 circa 2000
- 4.26 2002
- 4.27 2005
- 4.28 2007
- 4.29 2008
- 4.30 2009
- 4.31 2010
- 4.32 2012
- 5 Theories
- 6 Similar cryptids
- 7 Further cryptozoological reading
- 8 Notes and references
Accounts of the Queensland tiger are generally very consistent, and have been for a century. It is almost always compared to or described as a cat, more rarely a dog-like animal, and is usually described as between 4' and 5' including the tail, which is said to be long and thick, and is sometimes reported to have a tuft on the tip. Its average height at the shoulder is said to be about 1' 6'', and it is built much heaver than a domestic cat. Its legs are described as relatively short, its paws as large, and its claws as long. The head is round and cat-like, and particularly large and powerful in proportion to its body. It is very often described as having "tusks" or fangs, in one account compared to sabre-teeth. Its eyes are said to be green, and its ears are pointed like those of a cat.
A number of "colour morphs" are reported of the Queensland tiger. Its coat is said to be short and inclined to be coarse, and it is usually described as having black stripes encircling its body, compared to hoops by Karl Shuker. Beneath the striped, its fur is usually said to be fawn, tan, or grey, but dark brown and all-black animals have also been reported.
It tends to be reported from near mountainous, "rough, rocky country on top of the ranges," and close to thick rainforests, chiefly in places inhabited by tree kangaroos and rock wallabies. It is principally reported from Queensland, especially from the coastal ranges: "in northern Queensland, from Cairns to Cardwell; in southeastern Queensland, from Biggenden to Tamborine Mountain".
Photographs and videos
Naturalist and explorer of Australia Carl Lumholtz included a description of the yarri, gleaned from Aboriginal accounts, in his book Among Savages (1889).
Far over two hundred accounts of Queensland tiger sightings have allegedly been recorded since the early 19th Century, but farmers found them pests and killed many of them. For 150 years, European explorers, settlers, farmers, and bush walkers allegedly observed, shot, skinned, and examined these animals. The significance of most of the animals that were shot was never realised - as such, carcasses were discarded, and in one case a body was left ouside and devoured by wild pigs.
Naturalist George Sharp claimed to have briefly spied a large striped animal whilst hunting for eggs of the golden bower-bird (Ptilonorhynchus) near the source of the Tully River:
A little while after the Sharp sighting, a tiger was allegedly killed on the Atherton Tableland whilst attacking a farmer's goats. Sharp heard of the incident and was able to examine the skin, which he described as being about five feet long from the nose to the tip of the tail. However, Sharp had no means of preserving the skin, and it was allowed to decay; wild pigs had already eaten the head and body.
A Mr. Endres of Mundubbera in Queensland allegdly captured a live Queensland tiger, which Karl Shuker suggests may have been a young individual on account of its size. The fate of the animal is unstated, and Endres described it as:
Ion Idriess, an Australian author who spent much of his life in rural regions, reported two encounters with the Queensland tiger, both occuring near the Alice River. Bernard Heuvelmans noted that Idreiess wrote about the Queensland tiger as if it were a rather commonplace animal.
Idriess' account is identical, word for word, to a story given in D. H. Lawrence's novel Kangaroo (1923), leading Michel Raynal to label Idriess' two sightings as hoaxes. However, as discovered by Malcolm Smith, it was in fact Lawrence who took the story from Idriess, who first published it under the pseudonym "Gouger" in the periodical Bulletin (8 June 1922). Lawrence read the report whilst in Australia, and decided to incorporate it into his book: the character who tells the story in Kangaroo actually states that it came from the Bulletin.
A bullock-driver near Cardwell claimed to have seen a tiger in 1864, but as he was a notorious liar, he was not believed.
The thirteen year old son of Cardwell police magistrate Brinsley G. Sheridan chased a striped 'cat' up a tree in or shortly before 1871. It became aggressive when the boy's dog growled, and it chased them home. Zoologist Philip Sclater passed on Sheridan's account of his sons encounter to the Zoological Society of London, of which he was Secretary, in 1871:
Later in the year, in early December, a surveyor named Hull was working with a party of five men near the Murray and Mackay Rivers, north of Cardwell. Between 8 and 9 o'clock one night, all the men were startled by a loud roar close to the tents. They armed themselves and searched the area, but the animal had already departed; in the morning, however, they found and sketched its tracks. The men with Hull told the same story when interviewed, and additionally claimed to have heard the roars for three nights in a row. Zoologist Gerard Krefft believed the track was that of an ordinary dog.
Police officer Robert Arthur Johnstone claimed to have come across a large animal in a tree, about 12 metres from the ground, west of Cardwell in 1872, alongside a group of native police. When they approached it, the animal jumped 3 metres across to another tree, then "slithered" down tail first. Johnstone later discovered its den, littered with the crushed bones of rock wallabies. He described the animal as larger than a pointer, with "fawn-colored with darker markings and [...] a long, thick tail and a round head with no visible ears".
Rex Gilroy reports that, in 1896, a farmer living in Atherton repeatedly lost calves, sheep, and goats to a mystery predators which raided his farm, leaving only large paw prints in the mud. One day, from the kitchen window, he saw the predator, which he described as a little larger than a German shepherd, with greyish fur and darker stripes. The animal dashed across the paddock about 50' away from the window, pounced on a calf, and grabbed it by the throat. By the time French had rushed outside with his rifle, the animal had disappeared, but he managed to track it down, dragging its kill through the scrub, alongside his two teenage sons. They eventually discovered it in a clearing, perched in a gum tree some 20' off the ground, the calf's body wedged between the trunk and the branch. French shot the animal dead, and later skinned it.
J. McGeehan claimed to have come across a "striped marsupial cat" being attacked by dogs and "crying piteously" near Kairi in 1900. The cat was clearly striped in alternate dark brown and white rings about 7 centimetres wide, had a head like a Pomeranian dog, and was about 60 centimetres long in all. Bernard Heuvelmans believed this was a young individual.
In 1920, two men on horseback, G. de Tournoeur and P. B. Scougall, claimed to the Brisbane Courier that they had encountered a Queensland tiger at Munna Creek. They described:
Another tiger was killed by dogs in 1926, the same year that a "cat" the size of a sheepdog was killed.
A tiger was shot in 1932.
In May or June 1940, Nigel and Charlie Tutt were hiking on Mount Stanley when they rounded a bend and saw a large cat sunning itself on a pine stump. They stopped about 20 feet away from it and noted that it was reddish, with dark-brown stripes all over its body and legs. It looked at them coolly for about twenty seconds and then bounded away.
A man named Gamer was riding through the brush near Bidwell, Queensland, in 1954 when he surprised a large, gray cat with dark-orange stripes. He was struck by its savage nature and large fangs.
In late 1967, an aggressive animal the size of a dog was shot by Carl Lentz. He intended to keep the carcass, but heavy flooding in the night caused him to skin it and leave the body.
A Queensland Tiger spotted on Mount Bartle Frere in 1968 was described as having a round, broad head, a nose shorter and broader than a dog's and some of its teeth appeared to protrude out and upwards like tusks.
Scientist Gary Opit allegedly saw a giant quoll-like animal along Brisbane's Gold Coast Highway in 1969. He was alone, and got a clear view of the animal, which walked like a marsupial. He has seen the animal on multiple occasions since, and his encounters with the beast have stretched as far north as Mt Tamborine. His brother John Opit has also seen the Queensland tiger. Opit described his encounter:
At the time Opit considered the possibility that it was some species of escaped civet, but he also connected it with the "marsupial cat" described by Ellis Troughton.
From 1970 to 1973, naturalist Janeice Plunkett collected more than 100 reports of the tiger throughout Queensland.
In 1982 a leopard-sized creature with a cat-like gait and heavily striped tail was reported near Perth.
Mike Jones ran across a black-striped, panther-sized animal feeding on a dead calf in the mountains near Mareeba, Queensland, in 1983.
In 1984, a panther-sized striped cat-like animal was seen sitting in a tree devouring a sheep, and was also heard roaring near a creek at Daintree.
Gary Opit collected an account of a marsupial lion encounter which supposedly occured in the Billinudgel Nature Reserve sometime around 1985. Opit's contact:
On May 30, 1987, Greg Calvert found tracks larger than a dingo’s near Hughenden, Queensland, and followed them for several hundred yards. They showed the grooming claws of a marsupial.
Also in 1987, a hunter near Hughenden was pursuing a dingo he had wounded when a large hay-coloured animal with black body stripes suddenly appeared and attacked and ate the dingo.
Gilroy writes that a pair of fishermen camped overnight on the Wenlock River, Cape York Peninsula, in November 1990, Jim Spriggs and Tony Banks, were awoken at dawn by the clatter of cooking utensils, allowing them to see a greyish animal with black stripes rummaging through the camp's belongings.
According to Gilroy, a biker named Don Moss encountered "a large, fawn-coloured animal with black body stripes" sitting in a tree whilst exploring a scrubland track west of Townsville. Upon seeing him, the surprised animal leapt from the tree and bounded into the scrub. When he arrived at the tree, Moss discovered a dead goat about 15' from the ground, wedged between trunk and limb.
In 1995, Goldsborough Valley resident "Wharfie" Mark Camplon was sitting on his verandah when his dog Rusty began to grow afraid of something unseen. He soon heard a deep growling. Camplon said people who thought he had been hitting the booze should go an spend some time in the valley:
In mid-September 1995, a dead female Queensland Tiger was allegedly found beside the Bruce Highway about 12.5 miles south of Cardwell. It was described it as the size of a small cattle dog, with a cat-like face, short pointed ears, large hindquarters and stripes near the chest from backbone down to belly. The distinctive stripes were regularly spaced on a dark tan background colour. The tail had a tiny white tip. Some of the dark brown hairs below the chest had black tips, formed four black stripes. The remains were too mangled and decomposed for conclusive identification, and no testing was ever done, apparently.
Around 2000, Dennis Wright was out shooting in Australia when he saw what appeared to be a big black cat. He looked at it through binoculars, and realised it had a wombat-like head. Opting not to shoot, he went over to it, but it was gone when he arrived at the tree it was standing under. Later, he realised that the animal had climbed the tree, and was there when he was searching below the tree, but refrained from attacking.
On 21 June 2002, a wombat-like feline animal was reportedly seen near a disused logging coop in Gilderoy by a family driving past:
A farmer, searching for a missing cow in 2005, found that it had been severely wounded by a broad-headed predator, present at the scene, that "seemed to have some marsupial-like attributes" being long-bodied, short-legged and long and thick in the tail. The creature had also killed the cow’s calf.
- Main article: Singleton giant quoll.
The Singleton giant quoll is almost universally speculated to be a Queensland tiger: the only different is that the quoll had a longer muzzle. A $1000 reward has been offered by "Mike" for anyone who takes a photograph of the animal.
In the December of 2008, a woman named Jennifer was driving through Castlereagh Hwy, near Pearson's Lookout between the towns of Capertee and Ilford, in a large truck. Whilst driving, she allegedly passed two dead animals together - a kangaroo, and another, unidentified animal akin to a lion cub. She described it as follows:
An eyewitness from Warburton, Victoria reported that on 28 August 2009, they:
In 2010, a Queensland tiger allegedly ran across the road in front of a car, at extreme speed.
In February of 2012, a woman was driving down a road in Nimbin at night when a large animal walked out in front of the car. It looked like a lion, but had a striped flank.
One sceptical identity which has been suggested for some Queensland tiger sightings is that the animals are misidentified tiger quolls (Dasyurus maculatus), which can grow up to 2' long with a 1' 6'' tail - in addition, it is in fact sometimes referred to as the "tiger-cat" or even yarri. However, the tiger quoll is very clearly spotted, not striped, and more closely resembles a weasel than a cat, with a pointed face, leading most cryptozoologists to discount it as a good identity candidate for the majority of sightings.
Suggestions of misidentified dingos, feral dogs, oversized domestic cats, and escapee tigers are also discounted by Karl Shuker on account of the highly distinctive features of the Queensland tiger. It is described as having hooped stripes around its body, tusk-like teeth protruding from its mouth, and arboreal habits - features which no single one of these animals would have all at once - and the longstanding Aboriginal knowledge of the animal as the yarri shows that it was present before Europeans arrived in Australia. All this leads Shuker to write that "it is clear [...] that attempts to identify the yarri as anything so conservative as an oversized domestic cat, misidentified dog or dingo, or the occasional escapee tiger are woefully ill-founded".
The Queensland tiger appears to be a marsupial. A number of sightings describe it with marsupial characteristics such as a stiff kangaroo-like tail, a wombat-like head, and rarely even a pouch. The apparently traditional Aboriginal knowledge of the yarri also strongly supports the theory that it is a marsupial, as all native Australian terrestrial mammals other than rodents are marsupials or monotremes.
Descriptions of the Queensland tiger are extraordinarily consistent with the conjectured appearance and habits of the marsupial lion (Thylacoleo carnifex), which is known to have lived in Australia until at least around 40,000 years ago, although according to Shuker, fossils 16,000 years old are common, and remains as young as 6,500 years old may exist. Thylacoleo is most closely related to phalangers, koalas, and wombats, not to the dasyurids, the family which contains all the rest of Australia's predatory mammals.
Based upon its fossils, Thylacoleo was a vaguely cat-shaped animal, with a round and stocky head, powerful jaws, long legs, and long claws. It also had pseudo-opposable thumbs on both front paws, strongly suggesting an arboreal lifestyle; indeed, it is now believed to have ambushed its prey by jumping down from trees. In addition, a number of cave paintings discovered in Australia which may depict Thylacoleo show the animal with a striped coat (although the stripes are not "hoops," like on the Queensland tiger; they are restricted to the top of the animal's back); and some eyewitnesses have noted a forward-facing tuft on the animals tail. In 2008, an Aboriginal cave painting was found depicting what appears to be a Thylacoleo with a tufted tail.
The teeth of Thylacoleo, however, may be the most consistent detail. Thylacoleo possessed a pair of fangs, not elongated canines, but elongated incisors, right at the front of its mouth. These fangs would have resembled tusks or even the beak of a parrot, and would be highly visible to eyewitnesses given their place at the very front of the mouth.
Indeed, Shuker notes that "Thylacoleo's likely appearance in life is an extraordinarily close match with eyewitness descriptions of the yarri. Indeed, the reconstruction is so similar to these descriptions that it could be easily mistaken for one of them itself."[note 1] Consequently, a number of Queensland tiger researchers regard the cryptid as a marsupial lion, and even refer to it as Thylacoleo.
In his 1941 book Furred Animals of Australia, prominent Australian mammologist and curator of the Sydney Museum Ellis Troughton suggested that the "Striped Native Cat" was a novel type of large dasyurid. Paleontologist Darren Naish, although skeptical of the tiger as a whole, suggests that Gary Opit's sighting and others like it describing similar features were indeed of an unknown carnivorous marsupial
Some cryptozoologists have connected Queensland tiger sightings with possible mainland thylacines. The primary reason for favouring this theory over the marsupial lion theory is that the thylacine is believed to have disappeared from the Australian mainland far later than Thylacoleo, making its continued existence in some form more likely.
However, as noted by researchers including Shuker and Michel Raynal, the appearance and habits of the thylacine are entirely inconsistent with those of the Queensland tiger. The thylacine was, or is, a dog- or wolf-shaped animal with a long, thin muzzle, did not have arboreal habits, and is not believed to have been particularly vicious. The Queensland tiger, on the other hand, is always described as having a short, cat-like face, is arboreal, and is reputed to be aggressive and dangerous. George Eberhart also notes that the tusklike teeth, curved claws, and leopard-like growl are not features of thylacines, and that the stripes of the Queensland tiger, whilst similar to those of a thylacine, are different in that they are said to wrap around its stomach and sides, and terminate before reaching its spine. The stripes of the thylacine are only on its back and sides. Shuker writes that the identification of the Queensland tiger with a thylacine is more "an act of despair than diligence".
- Alien big cats in Australia.
- The Singleton giant quoll.
- The warrigal, a large maned cat with protruding teeth, reported from Australia's Blue Mountains.
Further cryptozoological reading
- Bernard, Heuvelmans (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals
- Healy, Tony (1994) Out of the Shadows: Mystery Animals of Australia
- Opit, Gary (2009) Australian Cryptozoology
- Williams, Mike and Lang, Rebecca (2010) Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers
- O'Reilly, David (2011) Savage Shadow: The Search for the Australian Cougar
- Wright, Dennis (2017) Thylacoleo Lives
Notes and references
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2020) Mystery Cats of the World Revisited: Blue Tigers, King Cheetahs, Black Cougars, Spotted Lions, and More, Anomalist Books, ISBN 978-1949501179
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- Smith, Malcolm (2021) Bunyips and Bigfoots: Up-Dated Second Edition, ASIN B08VYDC728
- Heuvelmans, Bernard (1955) On the Track of Unknown Animals, Routledge, ISBN 978-1138977525
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
- Souef, A. S (1926) The Wild Animals Of Australasia
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (1995) In Search of Prehistoric Survivors: Do Giant 'Extinct' Creatures Still Exist?, Blandford, ISBN 9780713-724691
- Shuker, Karl P. N. ShukerNature: FROM BLACK LIONS TO LIVING SABRE-TOOTHS - MY TOP TEN MYSTERY CATS karlshuker.blogspot.com [Accessed 2014]
- Raynal, Michel "Le "chat-tigre" du Queensland" Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie cryptozoo.pagesperso-orange.fr [Accessed 11 June 2019]
- Walter J. Scott, "Letter from W. J. Scott, Addressed to the Secretary, Respecting the Supposed ‘Native Tiger’ of Queensland", Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1872
- "Notice of the Existence in Queensland of an Undescribed Species of Mammal", Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1871
- Johnstone, Robert Arthur (1905 Spinifex and Wattle: Reminiscences of Pioneering in North Queensland
- Gilroy, Rex Rex & Heather Gilroy Research of the Australian Panther - Queensland Research mysteriousaustralia.com [Accessed 12 June 2019]
- Centre for Fortean Zoology Australia: NSW 'Thylacine' sightings update cfzaustralia.com [Accessed 2014]
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- Thylacoleo Alive and Well up North? cfzaustralia.com [Accessed 2014]
- Big Cat Witnesses
- The Marsupial Lion
- Wright, Dennis (2017) Thylacoleo Lives
- Yowie Hunters
- The Cryptozoologist
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- Centre for Fortean Zoology - Thylacoleo Roadkill in NSW?
- Mystery Beast Sighted in Hunter Valley, NSW
- Nimbin sighting of possible thylacine or marsupial lion
- Cite error: Invalid
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- Troughton, Ellis (1931), Furred Animals of Australia, Scribner's, ISBN 9780207122569
- Naish, Darren(2016), Hunting Monsters: Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths , Arcturus, ISBN 9781784288624
- The image by Neave Parker which heads this article was drawn as a depiction of the Queensland tiger, but is described by some websites as a reconstruction of Thylacoleo itself.