For this narrative joke, my informant is my older brother (SF). The “Drop Bear” came up in conversation when talking about going on a hike or exploring nature in Australia. My parents had mentioned their plans for the following day on the trip to which my cousin interjected and said, “watch out for the drop bears.” “The what?” my father responded. “The drop bears.” my cousin repeated, dragging on the anticipation of not expanding and letting other cousins and Australian family back him up. My cousin then explained, “yea, big angry bears that live in the trees and they’ll drop on your head.” Drop bears are a species native to Australia that most outsiders have never heard of. The warnings continue to even suggest bringing a helmet into the Australian forests.
My family, being from the US, was unfamiliar with this concept that is widely known by Australians, and had fallen for the joke. We were visiting our relatives in Australia when I was younger, and my brother had remembered the story. Though fallacious, drop bears have an extensive amount of detailed history and classifications. According to the Australian Museum, Drop Bears are carnivorous marsupials, “around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning,” ranging from “120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.” My informant’s interpretation revolved around this story being a funny joke but not much more. He enjoyed the idea that this fooled his parents and aligned with his humor of subjecting gullibility.
My interpretation of this story/species is simply a way to prank tourists for entertainment. It’s a harmless joke that catches newcomers looking up constantly and watching the trees. It’s incredible that the legend has become so developed, so much so that the animal has basically all of the classifications any real species would, including appearance, diet, habitat, and regional distribution. I would say this legend brings Australians together, as they essentially have a nationwide inside joke.