I once attended a dinner party in the UK where the main topic of conversation was how to deal with moles wrecking lawns. The equivalent in Australia would have to be the sweet bandicoot, though his pointy snout leaves a conical hole rather than a molehill. He doesn’t mean to upset anyone and is only looking for grubs and worms.
The bandicoot, like other digging marsupials, has a backward facing pouch so that its babies don’t end up covered in dirt. Isn’t nature wonderful? 😍
There are a couple of quaint Aussie expressions associated with this little animal;
I only discovered the following term, ‘to bandicoot‘, when I started growing potatoes. A gardening article mentioned harvesting a few tubers before digging up the entire plant;
Probably from the perception of the bandicoot’s burrowing habits, a new Australian verb ‘to bandicoot’ arose towards the end of the nineteenth century. It means ‘to remove potatoes from the ground, leaving the tops undisturbed,’ Usually this activity is surreptitious.
One of the first examples of bandicoot being used as a verb was on December 12 1896, when it appeared in The Bulletin – ‘I must bandicoot the spuds from the cockies – or go on the track!’ Of course ‘cockies’ refers to farmers.
And from the same publication three years later; ‘Bandicooting’ ….is a well-known term all over Western Vic. potato-land. The bandicooter goes at night to a field of ripe potatoes and carefully extracts the tubers from the roots without disturbing the tops.’
AN ENGAGING URBAN MYTH
During the Great Depression a salesman was travelling the back country trying to make a few quid. One day he pulled off the road and decided to try and cheer himself up by playing a record as he boiled the billy. The song was ‘If you’re in love, you’ll dance‘ by the much loved Aussie songstress Gladys Moncrief.
‘….the singer had scarcely begun when a bandicoot came out of the brushwood – at first warily then confidently, and after surveying the surroundings with pricked ears, sat up and began to dance. The record was repeated; so was the dance, but when the item was changed the furry stepper retreated. In order to test the bandicoot’s power of discrimination, other records were put on, but the little quadruped could not be lured from its hiding place until Glady Moncrief’s item was repeated…….it was tried repeatedly, and always with the same result. (Source – The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld February 1 1930)
As part of a scientific study, Western Australian woman Wendy Day raised a baby bandicoot in her home. She fed him on goats milk, egg and vitamins. Her story, with accompanying photos, was published in The Australian Women’s Weekly on May 10 1978.
Here is a short verse. I’m afraid I don’t know who wrote it.
Although he gnaws the spuds by night,
His little teeth are far too slight,
To hurt you if he tries.
He has no fangs, or claws, or sting,
He’s just a funny little thing
Of quite a modest size.
His furry coat’s of sober hue,
And timidly he’ll peep at you
With bright and beady eyes.
To watch a video of a baby bandicoot being cared for, CLICK HERE.
For more work by artist Ian Coate.