Would a Dingo Really Eat Your Baby?

Andrew Haysom/istock via getty images
Andrew Haysom/istock via getty images

Every Seinfeld fan remembers the scene in which Elaine broke out her best Australian accent and dingo theory. Are dingoes really known for eating small children? And what was she referencing with the accent?

Just what is a dingo?

Dingoes are wild dogs found only in Australia and Southeast Asia. Scientists believe that the dingo made its first appearance Down Under somewhere around 3,000 years ago, and those early Aussie dingoes were possibly descendants of their Asian counterparts.

Although dingoes have interbred with domesticated dogs over the centuries, they’re still pretty ferocious eaters. Dingoes are opportunistic hunters and scavengers, and they’ll eat anything from bugs to buffalo to fruit to garbage.

Where did this baby-eating story originate?

The pop-culture idea of a dingo eating a baby can be traced back to one of Australia’s most infamous tragedies. On the night of August 17, 1980, nine-week-old girl Azaria Chamberlain disappeared while on a camping trip at Ayers Rock with her family.

Chamberlain’s parents, Lindy and Michael, immediately feared that the local wild dogs had snatched their daughter. Lindy thought that she saw a dog fleeing the campsite with something large in its jaws, which led her to exclaim, “A dingo’s got my baby!”

Azaria never returned, and searchers never located her body. Authorities initially bought the Chamberlains’ story that a dingo had absconded with her daughter, but a second inquest into the disappearance in 1981 revealed some apparently damning evidence. The Chamberlains’ car contained traces of fetal hemoglobin, which is only found in young infants, and a recovered piece of the girl’s clothing had a handprint on it. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Prosecutors and investigators developed a theory than Lindy Chamberlain had killed her daughter and disposed of the body, then used the dingo story as a ruse to explain Azaria’s disappearance. The theory may not have been airtight, but it was enough to get Lindy Chamberlain convicted of murder and sentenced to life. Michael Chamberlain received a suspended sentence for being an accessory after the fact. The High Court denied the Chamberlains’ appeals, and Lindy remained in prison.

Lindy spent over three years in Darwin Prison before she caught a lucky break in 1986. Azaria’s missing jacket finally turned up in a patch of scrubby land near Ayers Rock where she disappeared. The area where the jacket was found was dotted with dingo dens, a fact that added significant credibility to the Chamberlains’ initial story. Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison, and the courts overturned both Chamberlains’ convictions in 1988 following a new investigation.

It seems plausible that dingoes were actually responsible for Azaria’s disappearance and death, but the dogs still haven’t officially received the blame. A third coroner’s inquest in 1995 resulted in her cause of death being listed as “unknown.” In late 2010 the Australian government reopened the case for a fourth time after the girl’s mother, now Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, campaigned to have the girl’s death certificate changed to include the dingo attack as her cause of death.

So are there any conclusive reports of dingoes eating babies?

Yes. While Australians have known for years that dingoes can savagely attack calves and sheep, the Chamberlains’ story about a dingo stealing their baby seemed a bit farfetched in 1980. Since then, though, there have been tragic examples of dingo attacks. Most notably, in 2001, two dingoes mauled and killed nine-year-old Clinton Gage on Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland. In 1998 a dingo dragged 13-month-old Casey Rowles out of her family’s tent, but her father moved quickly enough to rescue her from the dog.

How did the “A dingo ate my baby!” line get such pop-culture traction?

As we mentioned above, the disappearance and subsequent trials were national sensations in Australia. The case probably moved up on the American radar with the 1988 film Evil Angels (released as A Cry in the Dark in the U.S.). The film starred Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain and Sam Neill as Michael Chamberlain, and while it didn’t do huge numbers at the box office, it got a nice critical buzz. (In 2008, the American Film Institute named it the ninth-best courtroom drama of all time.)

The line “Maybe the dingo ate your baby?” got even greater exposure with Elaine’s joke in the 1991 Seinfeld episode “The Stranded,” and the quip has become a pop-culture staple ever since. One notable example: in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the character Oz’s band is called Dingoes Ate My Baby.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Treat Your Feline This Holiday Season With Fancy Feast’s Cat Food Advent Calendar

Fancy Feast/Chewy
Fancy Feast/Chewy

In anticipation of the holiday season, many children and adults get to unwrap mini presents each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas day, during what's known as Advent. Though Advent itself dates back to the 4th century, the version we know today, complete with the chocolate-filled calendars, was popularized in the early 1900s. And apparently it's no longer just for humans, because Fancy Feast is letting your feline roommate in on the fun with this unique cat food Advent calendar, now available at Chewy for $23.

For the 24 days leading up to Christmas, your cat will get to enjoy a variety of different wet foods, including favorites like grilled salmon, chicken, and more. There is even a unique ornament included with each calendar featuring a cat in the shape of a heart that can go right onto your tree. (Also, don't be surprised to find your actual cat making its way into the middle of your tree; they're known climbers.)

Now while you enjoy your Advent calendars from brands like LEGO, Funko, and more, your cat will be able to join in on the fun as well. To learn more about Fancy Feast's Feastivites Advent Calendar, head on over to Chewy.

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