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The maero are described by the Maori (the native race of New Zealand) as looking much like themselves, except that the maero were bigger and had shaggy hair growing all over their bodies. The maero were exceptionally strong, even for their size. They did not wear clothes and had few of the trappings of civilization, though they did use stone clubs. According to traditional history and folklore, the maero were more or less constantly at war with the Maori. As a result of this war, the maero had been driven into the most rugged and inhospitable areas, where they barely survived, in small numbers. The maero would kill any human beings they happened to come across, and they seemed to have no cannibalism taboo, because they generally ate these victims. The maero, unlike other mythical creatures of New Zealand, are endowed with little or nothing in the way of supernatural powers. They usually seem quite natural. Also, there are tales about humans of gigantic stature that are supposed to represent crossbreeding between Maori and maero. This trait is said to run in families, such as the Kaihai family of Waikato and the Haupapa family of Rotorua. Although these families produce big people today, it is said that these are nothing compared to the specimens they once produced – gigantic, muscular men who were perhaps between 8 feet and 11 feet tall. This idea parallels Tibetan reports of the yeti and humans interbreeding.

It is thought that the maero, if they ever existed, might be extinct today. To complicate the picture, the maero is often confused with two types of fairy folk from Maori mythology. One is the patu-paiarehe, the fair-skinned “mist people” with supernatural powers, who sound curiously like Europeans (with instances of red hair and blue eyes) but reportedly date from long before any European influence. The other is the Maori ogres, flesh-eating giants who are usually not so hairy as the maero and are also endowed with supernatural powers. The maero is sometimes called the mairoero.