Yeti - Abominable Snowman
The Yeti, once better known as the Abominable Snowman, is a mysterious bipedal creature said to live in the mountains of Asia. It sometimes leaves tracks in snow, but is also said to dwell below the Himalayan snow line. Despite dozens of expeditions into the remote mountain regions of Russia, China, and Nepal, the existence of the Yeti remains unproven.
The Yeti is said to be muscular, covered with dark grayish or reddish-brown hair, and weigh between 200 and 400 pounds. It is relatively short compared to North America's Bigfoot, averaging about 6 feet in height. Though this is the most common form, reported Yetis have come in a variety of shapes.
In 2010, hunters in China caught a strange animal that they claimed was a Yeti. This mysterious, hairless, four-legged animal was initially described as having features resembling a bear, but was finally identified as a civet, a small cat-like animal that had lost its hair from disease.
History of the Yeti
In her book "Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch, and the Neanderthal Enigma," (1983, Thames and Hudson), researcher Myra Shackley offers the following description, reported by two hikers in 1942 who saw "two black specks moving across the snow about a quarter mile below them." Despite this significant distance, they offered the following very detailed description: "The height was not much less than eight feet ... the heads were described as 'squarish and the ears must lie close to the skull because there was no projection from the silhouette against the snow. The shoulders sloped sharply down to a powerful chest ... covered by reddish brown hair which formed a close body fur mixed with long straight hairs hanging downward." Another person saw a creature "about the size and build of a small man, the head covered with long hair but the face and chest not very hairy at all. Reddish-brown in color and bipedal, it was busy grubbing up roots and occasionally emitted a loud high-pitched cry."
It's not clear if these sightings were real, hoaxes, or misidentifications, though legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who spent months in Nepal and Tibet, concluded that large bears and their tracks had often been mistaken for Yeti. In March 1986, Anthony Wooldridge, a hiker in the Himalayas, saw what he thought was a Yeti standing in the snow near a ridge about 500 feet away. It didn't move or make noise, but Wooldridge saw odd tracks in the snow that seemed to lead toward the figure. He took two photographs of the creature, which were later analyzed and proven genuine.
Many in the Bigfoot community seized upon the photos as clear evidence of a Yeti, including John Napier, an anatomist and anthropologist who had served as the Smithsonian Institution's director of primate biology. Many considered it unlikely Wooldridge could have made a mistake because of his extensive hiking experience in the region. The following year, researchers returned to where Wooldridge had taken the photos and discovered that he had simply seen a dark rock outcropping that looked vertical from his position. It was all a mistake — much to the embarrassment of some Yeti believers.
Most of the evidence for the Yeti comes from sightings and reports. Like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, there is a distinct lack of hard proof for the Yeti's existence, though a few pieces of evidence have emerged over the years.
In 1960, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mt. Everest, searched for evidence of the Yeti. He found what was claimed to be a scalp from the beast, though scientists later determined that the helmet-shaped hide was in fact made from a serow, a Himalayan animal similar to a goat.
In 2007, American TV show host Josh Gates claimed he found three mysterious footprints in snow near a stream in the Himalayas. Locals were skeptical, suggesting that Gates — who had only been in the area for about a week — simply misinterpreted a bear track. Nothing more was learned about what made the print, and the track can now be found not in a natural history museum but instead in a small display at Disney World.
A finger long believed to be from a Yeti found in a monastery in Nepal was examined by researchers at the Edinburgh Zoo in 2011. The finger generated controversy among Bigfoot and Yeti believers for decades, until DNA analysis proved that the finger was human, perhaps from a monk's corpse. [See also: Bigfoot & Yeti DNA Study Gets Serious]
Russian search for Yeti
The Russian government has recently taken an interest in the Yeti, going so far as to organize a conference of Bigfoot experts and bringing them to western Siberia in October 2011. Bigfoot researcher and biologist John Bindernagel claimed that he saw evidence that the Yeti not only exist but build nests and shelters out of twisted tree branches. That group made headlines around the world when they issued a statement that they had "indisputable proof" of the Yeti, and were 95 percent sure it existed based on some grey hairs found in a clump moss in a cave.
Bindernagel may have been impressed, but another scientist who participated in the same expedition concluded that the "indisputable" evidence was hoaxed. Jeff Meldrum, a professor of anatomy and anthropologist at Idaho State Universitywho endorses the existence of Bigfoot, said that he suspected the twisted tree branches had been faked. Not only was there obvious evidence of tool-made cuts in the supposedly "Yeti-twisted" branches, but the trees were conveniently located just off a well-traveled trail and hardly in a remote area. Meldrum concluded that the whole Russian expedition was more of a publicity stunt than a serious scientific endeavor, likely designed to increase tourism in the impoverished coal-mining region. Despite quasi-official claims of "indisputable proof" of the Yeti, nothing more has come of the story.
The lack of hard evidence despite decades of searches doesn't deter true believers; the fact that these mysterious creatures haven't been found is not taken as evidence that they don't exist, but instead how rare, reclusive, and elusive they are. Like Bigfoot, a single body would prove that the Yeti exist, though no amount of evidence can prove they don't exist. For that reason alone, these animals — real or not — will likely always be with us.
Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of "Skeptical Inquirer" science magazine and author of six books, including "Tracking the Chupacabra" and "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries." His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.
The Tibetan name for the Abominable Snowman, a humanlike monster whose tracks have been discovered in the frigid lands of perpetual snow in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Tibet. According to locals, the Yeti is but one of several unidentified creatures that inhabit the highlands of southern Asia.
Several sightings, mainly of footprints, have been reported by westerner explorers throughout the years.
1832 - B.H. Hodson,the U.K. representative in Nepal, described a hirsute creature who reportedly had attacked his servants. The natives called the beast "rakshas," which means "demon." This was the first report of the Yeti made by a Westerner.
1889 - British army major L. A. Waddell found what he took to be large footprints in the snow on a high peak northeast of Sikkin. His bearers told him that these were the tracks of a man-like creature called Yeti, and that it was quite likely to attack humans and carry then away as food.
1913 - A group of Chinese hunters reportedly wounded and captured a hairy man-like creature, that the locals soon named the "snowman". This creature was supposedly kept captive in Patang at Sinkiang province for a period of five months until it died. It was described as having a black monkey-like face and large body covered with silvery yellow hair several inches long; it's hands and feet were man-like and the creature was incredibly strong.
1914 - J. R. P. Gent, a British forestry officer stationed in Sikkim, wrote of discovering footprints of what must have been a huge and amazing creature.
1921 - Members of a British expedition (led by Col. Howard-Bury) climbing the north face of Mount Everest sighted some dark figures moving around on a snowfield above them. When the explorers reached the spot, at some 17,500 feet, the creatures were not there but had left behind some huge, humanlike footprints in the snow.
1923 - Major Alan Cameron, with the Everest Expedition of that year, observed a line of huge and dark creatures moving along a cliff face high above the snowline. Pictures of the creatures' tracks were taken two days later, when the expedition reached the area where they were seen.
1925 - A Greek photographer and member of the Royal Geographical Society named N. A. Tombazi glimpsed a creature he later described as "exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to uproot or pull some dwarf rhododendron bushes." Tombazi, who was at about 15,000 feet up in the mountains, later reached the spot where he sighted the creature, only to also find some intriguing tracks in the snow.
1936 - An expedition led by H. W. Tilman found strange footprints in the snow by the outer reaches of the snowline on the slopes approaching Mount Everest.
1937 - Returning from a campaign in Tibet, British explorer Frank Smythe relayed several reports of strange hairy wildmen made by the native Sherpas and Tibetans. He also claimed to have personally seen tracks of the creature at the 14,000-foot level.
1938 - The Yeti emerges as creatures of kindness and sympathy according to the story of Captain d'Auvergne, the curator of the Victoria Memorial near Chowringhee in Calcuta. The Captain claims that, injured while traveling on his own in the Himalayas and threatened with snow-blindness and exposure, he was saved from death by a 9 foot tall creature resembling a pre-historic human which, after carrying him several miles to a cave, fed and nursed him until he was able to make his way back home.
1942 - Slavomir Rawicz best selling book, The Long Walk published in 1952, telling how he and six friends escaped from a Siberian war camp and made their way to freedom in India by crossing the Himalayas describes an encounter with two 8 foot tall creatures somewhere between Bhutan and Sikkim. According to Slavomir, he and his companions watched the outsized beasts for over 2 hours, from a distance of 100 yards.
1948 - Norwegian uranium prospector Jan Frostis claimed he was attacked by one of two Yetis he stumble upon near Zemu Gap, in Sikkim. His shoulder was badly mangled and he required extensive medical treatment to recover from his lesions.
1949 - A Sherpa named Tenzing claimed to have seen playing in the snow near a monastery. This was the same Sherpa that shared the fame of Sir Edmund Hillary in the first successful ascent of Mount Everest.
1950 - A patch of skin and a mummified finger and thumb were found in the Himalayan mountains. Zoologists and anthropologists considered the fragments to be "almost human" and "similar in some respects to that of Neanderthal man" even though they could not be associated to any known living species.
1951 - The Everest Reconnaissance Expedition (organized to evaluate routes for an attempt to ascend Everest) encountered fresh tracks at 18,000 feet. During the following months, several additional sightings of Yeti tracks were reported.
1953 - New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay spot giant footprints during their conquest of Mount Everest.
1954 - The London Daily Mail's financed expedition (originally to hunt and catch a live Yeti) examined some supposedly 'authentic' Yeti scalps, but determined that these were mostly fakes made out of from animal skin; a small handful of them proved to be intriguing though, and zoologists were unable to link them to any known animals. The expedition also found footprints and droppings that, when analyzed, proved to contain both animal and vegetable matter.
1955 - Frenchman Abb Bordet followed three separate trails of footprints that belonged to an unknown creature.
1957 - Texas oilman Thomas Slick sponsors a Yeti hunt. His expedition came back solely with reports made by Nepalese villagers that five people had been killed by severe battering from Yeti over the preceding four years.
1958 - An American scientist working in Katmandu (Nepal), Dr. Norman Dyrenfurth, reports to have explored caves that were at some time inhabited by a type of "very low grade of human or near human creatures", presenting documentation and physical evidence in the form of hair samples, plaster casts of footprints, and discarded food scraps. Also in 1958 a Dr. Alexander Pronin reports seeing the creature while he was in the Pamirs (a unique high mountain complex located primarily in Tajikistan).
1960-61 - The Himalayan Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition also found some unusual tracks in the snow.
1970 - After hearing a strange noise near Mount Annapurna in Nepal, mountaineer Don Whillans tracks and watches a strange humanoid creature for about twenty minutes through his binoculars before it lumbers away.
1978 - Lord Hunt photographed Yeti tracks.
1986 - Climber Reinhold Messner reported a close-up sighting of an Yeti as it came into sight from behind a tree.
1992 - Julian Freeman-Attwood and two other men camping at a secluded spot on a remote glacier in Mongolia reported finding an unusual trail of heavy footprints one morning on the snow outside their tent, definitely made by a creature larger and heavier than a human.
1998 - American climber Craig Calonica, on Mount Everest, reported seeing a pair of yetis while coming down the mountain on its Chinese side. Both had thick, shiny black fur, he said, and walked upright.
In the US it's known as bigfoot, in Canada as sasquatch, in Brazil as mapinguary, in Australia as a yowie, in Indonesia as sajarang gigi and, most famously of all, in Nepal as a yeti. The little known Indian version of this legendary ape-like creature is called mande barung - or forest man - and is reputed to live in the remote West Garo hills of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya.