(PHOTO: Photo illustration: Toni Gauthier, Stanford Magazine “Michael Rugg compiles evidence of the unexplained” January/February 2010)
Michael C. Rugg is the Director of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, CA. Mike is a respected expert on the North American Sasquatch and other unknown hominids. Mike has amassed an unparalleled amount of knowledge in his 60 years of studying all aspects of Bigfoot and he shares his insights into these fascinating creatures in every episode of Bigfoot Discovery Project Show.
“A History and Discussion of the Abominable Snowman Question”
By Michael C. Rugg
13 March 1967
For Prof. Gerow, Anthropology 5, Stanford University, California
“We shall find the same situation recurring in most of the problems of unknown animals, and it is this that makes them so hard to solve. It is difficult not to be exasperated when all the pieces of evidence run away as soon as the experts arrive on the scene.”
~Bernard Heuvelmans, 1958
FINAL EDIT 29 September 2016
NOTE: This is the first digital reproduction of this paper as submitted for college credit. Transcribed by Gonzo journo Billy bob Bramscher for the CapriTaurus Discovery Bigfoot Museum Bigfoot Discovery Project.
“In 1889, Major L.A. Waddell, Doctor of Laws, Commander of the Bath, Commander of the Indian Empire, Fellow of the Linean Society, Fellow of the Anthropological Institute, found large footprints in the snow leading toward the high peaks in north-east Sikkim. He described the tracks as being those of a bare-footed biped, indicating that they went on for considerable distance, taking a course which would have been a credit to an expert mountaineer. He reported that the tracks were alleged to be those of hairy wild men, who live among the snows and are known well by Tibetans. This account, which appeared in Waddlell’s Among the Himalayas, published in 1899, is considered to be the earliest written mention in the English language of what has popularly become known as the Abominable Snowman.
At the time the book was published, the Western world gave this report little attention, except to speculate on the probability that the tracks were made by an ascetic who had preceded Major Waddell over the route. But this was by no means where the problem ended; another incident is reported to have taken place on the Sikkim-Tibet border in 1902. Keel (1958) wrote that according to the account of the incident, a few members of a British Indian telegraph crew, stringing a line from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to Darjeeling in Bengal Province, India, failed to return to camp one evening and a military posse was sent to search for them the next day. No trace of the men was found, but the Indian soldiers found a strange creature sleeping under a rock ledge and had no qualms about killing it immediately. According to the official report, the animal was rather human in form, although covered with thick hairy fur. The account explains that the corpse was shipped in ice, along with a report to the senior political officer in Sikkim, but no further report has been found, other than a statement by a retired Indian soldier who claimed to have been a member of the posse that killed the creature. He reported that it was about ten feet tall, covered with hair except for the face, with long yellow canines.
A portion of the letter received from a Forestry Officer (J.R.O. Gent), stationed in Darjeeling, was published in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in 1915. Like the above report, the incident caused very little concern on the part of zoologists. The report reads as follows:
I have discovered the existence of another animal but cannot make out what it is, a big monkey or an ape perhaps–if there were any apes in India. It is a beast of very high elevations and only goes down to Phalut in the cold weather. It is covered with longish hair, face also hairy, the ordinary yellowish-brown colour of the Bengal monkey. Stands about 4 feet high and goes about on the ground chiefly, though I think it can also climb.
The peculiar feature is that its tracks are about 18 inches or 2 feet long and toes point in the opposite direction to that in which the animal is moving. The breadth of the track is about 6 inches. I take it he wakes on his knees and shins instead of on the sole of his foot. He is known as the Jungli Admi or Sogpa. One was worrying a lot of coolies working in the forest below Phalut in December; they were very frightened and would not go into work. I set off as soon as I could to try and bag the beast, but before I arrived the Forester had been letting off a gun and frightened it away so I saw nothing. An old choukidar of Phalut told me he had frequently seen them in the snow there, and confirmed the description of the tracks.
It is a thing that practically no Englishman has ever heard of, but all the natives of the higher villages know about it. All I can say is that it is not the Nepal Langur; but I’ve impressed upon people up there that I want information the next time one is about.
This report would probably not have been published in the Proceedings had it not been brought forward by Henry J. Elwes, a respected member of the Zoological Society, who further stated that he had himself seen a similar creature in another part of the Himalayas. The general impression of the zoologists concerned was that perhaps a new species of monkey ad been found and some local folklore embellished, but the matter was never carried beyond the confines of the Society. It was , in fact, not until 1921 that the English speaking public became aware of the “problem”.
It was in that year that Colonel C.K. Howard-Bury, who was on a reconnaissance expedition in the Mt. Everest region, sent a telegram to India announcing that he and a companion, 17,000 feet up on the Lhapka La pass, had observed through binoculars a number of dark forms moving on the snowfield far above. When they reached the place, at about 23,000 feet, where they had seen the creatures the found a large number of huge footprints which the expedition leader claimed to be those of a “large stray grey wolf.” The Serpa porters argued that there was no doubt that the tracks were those of the metoh kangmi, a human-like creature with which they were all too familiar and that they feared greatly.
This telegram was brought to the attention of Henry Newman, a columnist in the Calcutta Statesman, who printed the story, misspelling the name metch kangmi and loosely translating it as Tibetan for “Abominable Snowman”. The press was enthralled by the term and immediately jumped on the bandwagon, giving the problem some systematic research and discovering that tales of this creature had actually been recorded for many years. They decided that they had found a delightful mystery, too good to keep from the impressionable public, and so it was that the Abominable Snowman came to be recognized by the Western world, in a sensational splash.
From this point on the snowman problem gathered momentum, with every account of sightings being duly published and discussed at length by many. In 1925, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society named N.A. Tombazi reported sighting, at an altitue of 15,000 feet, about nine miles from Zemu glacier, a creature which was “exatcly like a human being, walking upright…and, as far as [Tombazi] could make out, wore no clothes….” (Heuvelmans, 1958: 130-131). In 1931, Wing Commander E.B. Beauman of the R.A.F. saw some “ape-like tracks” on a glacier some 14,000 feet up near the source of the Ganges, (Beauman, 1937); and in 1936, an ethnographer and botanist named Ronald Kaulback also told of some tracks which “looked exactly as though they had been made by bare-footed men” (Kaulback, 1937). He came across the tracks at an altitude of 16,000 feet in south-east Tibet.
Momentum slowed with the onslaught of World War II, but the matter was resumed with increasing frequency of reports, found mainly in books published by members of various M. Everest expeditions. Sir Juhn Hunt, leader of the 1937 Everest expedition, announced, “I believe in the yeti – the Nepalpese name for the “snowman”. I have seen his tracks, heard his yelping call, listened to the first-hand experiences of reputable local people” (Holt, 1959: 44). W.H.Tilman, in his book Nepal Himalaya, makes reference to the abominable snowman’s tracks and states that “it is safe to assume that if the tracks are seen in snow they are not those of a bear” because it is “a rare occurrence for a bear to go above the snow-line” (Tilman, 1952: 84). One of the most interesting snowman accounts is an encounter which took place in 1942, reported by Slavomir Rawicz. He and three companions in flight from a Siberian prison camp to India were blocked by two haiiy, man-like creatures which were gathering and eating rhodendrons; the creatures reacted to their presence with complete nonchalance. Many other narratives have been recorded by Everest expeditioners of sightings and encounters of the natives, the one quoted most frequently being that of Sherpa Sen Tensing, who was Shiptons’ right-hand man on the 1937 survey in Karakorum. Sen Tensing tells of several occasions when he came upon yeti prints, and also gives a detailed description of a yet he once saw him-self while he was engaged in a religious festival in front of the Thyangboche Monestary near Everest.
Thus the stories went, the public viewing the accounts with varied responses. It was not until 1951 that everyone was forced to take the matter seriously–at least to the extent of admitting that something was behind the stories. This “revelation” came in the form of photographs taken by Shipton of fresh, well-defined footprints he had come across on the 1951 reconnaissance. These were published in the Illustrated London News and marked a turning point in the history of the abominable snowman problem. It was the public reaction to these photographs that led to several expeditions, organized exclusively for the investigation of and search for snowman:
Notable among the field workers were Dr. Wyso-Dunant of a Swiss expedition, Professor von Furer-Haimendolff of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and in particular Professor Rene von Nebesky-Wojkowitz. Among those not engaged in field work were Dr. W.C. Osman Hill of the Zoological Society of London in England, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, Belgian zoologist in Paris; and latterly, a whole group of Russian scientists led by Prof B.F. Porshnev (Sanderson, 1961: 14-15).
(The Russian group is known as the Special Commission to Study the Snowman of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences)
The Daily Mail sponsored an expedition in 1954 which resulted in several more books, written by various members of the expedition, each giving their accounts of events, the foremost being The Abominable Snowman Adventure by Ralph Izzard which gives a detailed narrative of the author’s observations in following the trail of two snowmen for several miles. This was followed by three subsequent expeditions led by Texas oilman Tom Slick, who ws very influential in bringing the matter into the realm of scientific endeavor, and who stimulated others in England, France, Italy, and elsewhere.
All this activity uncovered new evidence, led to more sightings, and prompted theorizing by several zoologists and anthropologists (which will be considered later). Moreover, the government of Nepal, fearful that this increased activity might result in harm inflicted upon the snowman, which was a religious entity in many areas of Tibet and protected according to the tenets of the Buddhist religion, in 1958 passed a law stating that the snowman should not be harmed except in self-defense.
The last expedition to be highly publicized was in 1960, under the direction of Sir Edmund Hillary. The findings of this expedition were published in Life Magazine and claimed to prove for once and all that the snowman was a myth – actually, he proved nothing, and in fact only muddled the issue even more with false claims and unsubstantiated assumptions (which will be discussed later).
The above discussion is only a chronological record of how the snowman problem was brought to the attention of the Western world. The greater part of the discoveries have come in reverse; that is, in the most recent years the earliest accounts have come to light. It should also be noted that the distributions of these animals is by no means restricted to the Himalayan region. Reports of the existence of similar creatures have appeared in southeast Asia and Africa, as well as more recent sightings in North America. In Sumatra, strange ape-like men called orang pendek have been reported for hundreds of years. There have been accounts of hairy men in Mongolia and a tribe of reddish-haired pygmies in Africa have been a mystery for at least a century. (These have even been theorized to be living Australopithecines.)
Legends about the snowman are current for thousands of miles; across the Himalayas from the Burmese frontier to the Karakorum. It is this area that we are concerned with, and it is the evidence for a “bipedal primate” known as the “abominable snowman” which has been uncovered in this area to which we should now give some consideration.
Thus far, we have seen some accounts of sightings, and several reports of the finding of footprints. This would seem very shaky evidence for the existence of an animal as enigmatic as abominable snowman. There is other physical evidence and, in addition, some very interesting cognate and corollary evidence including excrement, hair, alleged destruction of cairns by snowmen, and literary references to the snowman. But before we look at this additional evidence, it will be profitable to consider two more sightings which were reported in great detail by very reputable persons.
The first was reported by Prof. V.K. Leontiev of the aforementioned Russian Special Commission. In August of 1957 he came across some tracks in a patch of snow at the head of the Jarmut River and remarked, “you had the impression that this animal was walking on his toes – never getting very heavy on his heels.” The next night while preparing for sleep, ” ‘All of a sudden there came a strange cry… The cry was not very loud. It wasn’t like the yell of an animal – not any wild animal or bird known to me could make such a sound, and yet it couldn’t be a human being either.’ ” The following day he noticed something moving on a nearby snow field and stated, ” ‘This creature was going across, ascending slightly the upper part, and away from me. At the moment I saw him he was approximately 50 to 60 meters away from me… [and] he was walking on his feet, not touching the ground with his hands. His shoulders were unusually wide. His body was covered with long dark hair. He was about 2.2 meters (approximately 7 feet) tall.’ ” At this point Leontiev fired a shot at the feet of the animal which was by then at extreme range for his rifle, and only succeeded in hastening the creature’s retreat. (Sanderson, 1961: 292-293).
The second report comes from the official records of the Soviet Army Medical Corps. The incident occurred in 1941 and was put on record by Lt. Colonel V.S. Karapetyan. It reads as follows:
From October to December of 1941 our infantry battalion was stationed some 30 kilometers from the town of Buinaksk (in the Dagestan A.S.S.R.). One day the representatives of the local authorities asked me to examine a man caught in the mountains and brought to the district center. My medical advice was needed to establish whether or not this curious creature was a disguised spy.
I entered a shed with two members of the local authorities. When I asked why I had to examine the man in the cold shed and not a warm room, I was told that the prisoner could not be kept in a warm room. He had sweated in the house so profusely that they had to keep him in the shed.
I can still see the creature as it stood before me, a male, naked and bare-footed. And it was doubtlessly a man because its entire shape was human. The chest, back, and shoulders, however, were covered of shaggy hair of a dark brown colour. This fur of his was much like that of a bear, and 2 to 3 centimeters long. The fur was thinner and softer below the chest. His wrists were crude and sparsely covered with hair. The palms of his hands and soles of his feet were free of hair. But the hair on his head reached to his shoulders, partly covering his forehead. The hair on his head, moreover, felt very rough to the hand. He had no beard or mustache, though his face was completely covered with a light growth of hair. The hair around his mouth was also short and sparse.
The man stood absolutely straight with his arms hanging, and his height was above the average – about 180 cm. He stood before me like a giant, his mighty chest thrust forward.His fingers were thick, strong, and exceptionally large. On the whole, he was considerably bigger than any of the local inhabitants.
His eyes told me nothing. They were dull and empty – the eyes of an animal. And he seemed to me like an animal and nothing more.
As I learned, he had accepted no food or drink since he was caught. He had asked for nothing and said nothing. When kept in a warm room he seated profusely. While I was there, some water and then some food was brought up to his mouth; and someone offered him a hand, but there was no reaction. I gave the verbal conclusion that this was no disguised person, but a wild man of some kind. Then I returned to my unit and never heard of him again. (Sanderson, 1961: 92)
These sightings are just one part/of what we will refer to as corollary evidence. Other items which fit under this heading are reputed sounds and smells, and things reported to have been moved by snowmen.
The sounds, of course, fit in very closely with sightings as evidence since they are no more than reports (from various areas) of strange, high-pitched, long drawn-out gurgling whistles attributed to the snowman. Another similar corollary matter is the alleged odor of the snowman. This has been remarked upon by all those who have claimed to have been in close proximity to the creature. Neither sounds nor smells can be used as evidence of a substantial analysis; the descriptions of the cry and odor seem to correlate among different individual narrators at different times.
There are also reports of things being moved by the creatures, such as a cairn raised by climbers on the top of a mountain in the Himalayas that was destroyed, and rocks and boulders which were allegedly thrown at people by snowmen.
The above evidence is only perceptual, but the other evidence available in the corollary group is somewhat more tangible although still open to speculation. This includes some alleged paintings in Nepal and Tibet monasteries which are said to represent snowmen; a certain mask found in Moscow which supposedly is a replica of a snowman skull; and certain literary references to “wild-men” in old eastern Eurasian manuscripts, volumes on travel and legend, and the Bible.
While there is as yet nothing in the form of photographs or completely authenticated reports to substantiate the alleged monastery paintings, the mask mentioned above was examined by Dr. S.M. Uspenski in Moscow. It is a ritual Buddhist mask which was found in 1960 in the Puppet Theater Museum in Moscow, is estimated to be over 150 years old, and is said to have derived originally from Tibet. It depicts an anthropoid with large canines, extremely well-developed temporal crests, and a somewhat protruding torus. Dr. Uspenski proposes that it was modelled as a replica of a mummified snowman head. He considers it inconceivable that it could be purely an imaginative design (Fitter, 1960).
The most impressive discussion of literary evidence is by Dr. Emmanuel Vlcek, a Czechoslovakian archeologist. While studying in Mongolia, he came upon an 18th century edition of an “anatomical dictionary”. It shows, among various illustrations of Tibetan fauna, a primate standing erect upon a rock. The animal is covered with hair, except for the face and hands and feet. This creature is referred to in translation as a “wild man” that “lives in the mountains, his origin is close to that of a bear, his body resembles that of a man and he has enormous strength. His meat may be eaten to treat mental diseases and his gall cures jaundice.” Dr. Vlcek further points out that all the other animals represented in these books are accurate representations of actual fauna and in no case did they enter the realm of mythical beasts as in the case in medieval volumes of this genre (Vlcek, 1960: 133ff.)
There are likewise many references to hairy men and giants in the Bible, and in other books of lore and legend, too numerous to mention here. (There is a summary of appropriate Biblical passages organized by Rabbi Yonah N. ibn Aharon in Sanderson, 1961: 378-382).
At this point, we shall consider what will be termed cognate physical evidence, namely: hair, excrement, blood samples, remains of snowman kills, alleged shelters, and footprints.
First, there is the matter of hair, which has been taken from certain physical specimens (to be discussed later) and also isolated tufts found in association with sightings and spoor. They have been miscroscopically examined and show an interesting array of characteristics. Dr. Leon A. Hausman, professor of zoology at the New Jersey College for Women, found that “the structural elements of the hair shaft agreed with those of an Ursus or an anthropoid of some sort” (Heuvelmans, 1958: 168). But although he compared them with the hair of a langur and a brown bear, they did not coincide with either.
Serological comparisons have also been made between old and new flesh samples attributed to snowmen, and some primates, rabbits, does, and others. The results have been interesting yet inconclusive; the “snowman” samples do not match any of the animals considered, but have not been compared with some of the more likely types of known animals such as the gorilla, orang, and bear.
Scatological investigations have also been made of specimens of excrement collected in various points in Nepal and eastern Eurasia. On the macroscopic level, the fecal masses are described as being quite human-like in morphology although in some cases they may be much greater in volume than a normal human scat. On the microscopic level, they are found to contain the remains of small animals, some vegetable matter, bits of insects, and the eggs of certain parasitic worms of the genus Trichuris which are of a type found in various primates (Sanderson, 1961: 340). We find a detailed account of the discovery of excrement given in a book written as a result of the Daily Mail expedition. (Stonor, 1955: 120ff). “I did find what I am almost convinced was the dung of a yeti. Human in form, it was composed…of fur and bones of mouse hares, mixed up with an appreciable quantity of clay.” The clay was instrumental in convincing him it was yeti excrement, as the Sherpas had previously told him that the animal had a curious habit of eating quantities of clay found in the area.
There have also been many reports of the remains of small animals found in association with snowman tracks. These usually consist of the entrails, sometimes accompanied by a bone or a few tufts of hair. This is of some interest, as no carnivorous wild animal is know to disembowel its prey and discard the entrails.
Of the cognate physical evidence of snowmen, other than the ichnological, which is to be mentioned next, there is only the matter of shelters and lean-to attributed to snowmen. Stonor mentions this matter in his book: a senior monk told how
…he had climbed up to a desolate rocky area, two hours above the monastery, to look for one or two slabs of stone for mending the roof of his house. As he wandered about he came on an open, roofless shelter, a nest of twisted, newly broken juniper branches, interwoven to make a resting place of a size to harbour a man. He had heard tell that the yeti makes such resting-places, and was convinced he stumbled on one.
I remarked that this was the first I had heard from anyone that the yeti makes such resting places. At this Prior Nawang interrupted to say that an old man of the neighborhood, now dead, had once found a lair among desolate rocks: he had known that it belonged to a yeti because of its very strong and unpleasant smell” (Stonor, 1955: 120ff)
There are more reports from central Eurasia of caves and primitive excavations which are attributed to snowmen.
Finally, in the cognate physical evidence category we have the ichnological evidence. This consists of literally miles of tracks which are proposed to be those of a bipedal animal, and more explicitly, as those of “abominable snowmen”. The accounts of tracks constitute the most preponderant form of evidence, occurring in such large numbers of sources that it will be possible to consider here only the most famous tracks, namely those photographed by Shipton in 1951. These tracks are very clean cut and are considered to be fresh, and moreover have not as yet been proven to be those of any know animal. Shipton described these prints as showing “three broad ‘toes’ and broad ‘thumb’ to the side. What was particularly interesting was that where the tracks crossed a crevasse on could see quite clearly where the creature had jumped and used its toes to secure a purchase on the snow on the other side” (Shipton, 1951: 5). Wladimir Tschernezky of the Department of Zoology of Queen Mary College reconstructed what he considers to be an accurate model of the snowman foot and described it anatomical features:
(1) It is of great size: length 12 1/2 in., fore breadth 7 1/2 in., the width thus being 60 percent of the length. The heel is 6 1/2 in. broad, nearly as broad as the fore part of the sole. (2) The hallux is very thick and separated from other toes. (3) The second is the longest toe, and it is separated from the hallux and the third toe; it is thinner than the hallux though more powerful than the other toes. (4) The third, fourth and fifth toes are small and united towards their bases, although the distal end of each toe gives a clear impression in the snow. The little toe is less bent than the others. (Tschernezky, 1960)
This is sufficient consideration of the evidence from footprints; now we can look at the last category of evidence: intrinsic physical evidence.
This includes some complete mummies of snowmen which are reputed to exist in several Tibetan monasteries; a dried head alleged to be owned by the headman of the village Chilunka, 50 miles northeast of Katmandu; three mummified hands preserved in Nepalese monasteries; and three conical caps said to be snowman scalps, also kept in monasteries. Neither the complete mummies nor the dried head have actually been described by competent sources, and must therefore be given the same weight as individual sightings of living animals.
The mummified hands are another matter, and there is considerable mystery about them. All three of them have been photographed; subsequent studies by competent people have established them as definitely primate in nature. Two of them, which were both in a monastery in Pangboche, have been carefully studied, as the photographs show them with great clarity. The third photograph is less clear and nothing more can be determined other than the hand’s obvious primate character. Professor Osman Hill of the London Zoological Society declared one of the Pangboche specimens to be that of an unknown anthropoid, nearer to the Gorilla than to anything else. Professor Porshnev of the Soviet Academy of Sciences definitely pronounced the hand to be that of a Neanderthal subman of the Wurem period. The other hand was investigated by Professor Teizo Ogawa of the School of Anatomy of Tokyo University, but he has not published the results of his examination.
“Snowman” scalps were preserved for religious purposes in monasteries in Pangboche, Namch-Bazar, and Khumjung. These, like the hands, were photographed and hairs were taken from them for further investigation. The report on the hairs was mentioned earlier: they were those of an unknown animal. Charles Stonor (1955) describes the scalp as being 7 1/2 inches high, 9 3/4 inches
long and 6 3/4 inches wide, and having a circumference at the base of 26 1/4 inches.
The texture is that of brittle leather…skin blackish in color…the shape at the base is broad oval.
The outer surface is now largely bare and the skin fairly smooth…minutely pitted all over with hair bases. A fair proportion of hair still remains. The hair is foxy-red in general color, barred with blackish-brown. The individual hairs are a very few inches in length and are extremely stiff and bristle-like. From what is presumably the forehead the hair slopes backward, and slightly downwards along the sides, much as in a man; while at the back of the head it slopes almost vertically downwards.
An extraordinary feature is the crest or “keel” which runs from the base of the forehead straight upwards over the crown and down the back. In common with the rest of the hairs much of the crest is gone, but it is distinctly marked as a slightly raised ridge in the skin. (Heuvelmans, 1958: 169)
There is much speculation concerning these scalps, which will be covered later in a discussion of theories.
Now that we have considered the evidence, let us sum up just exactly what we do have in the way of proof: (1) dessicated hands, (2) some scalps, (3) piles of excrement, (4) miles of tracks, and (5) a multitude of sightings. On the basis of sightings it should be profitable at this point to give a generalized description of the “abominable snowman” as we now see him; and this is done quite well by Rene Nebesky-Wojkowitz (1956):
It is a remarkable fact that the statements of Tibetans, Sherpas, and Lepchas concerning the Snowman’s appearance largely coincide. According to their description a warrant for the arrest of this most “wanted” of all the inhabitants of the Himalayas would read as follows: 7 feet to 7 feet 6 inches tall [this may be a bit extreme for a generalization] when erect on his hind legs. Powerful body covered with dark brown [to reddish-brown] hair. Long arms. Oval head running to a point at the top, with apelike face. Face and head are only sparsely covered with hair. He fears the light of a fire, and in spite of his great strength is regarded by the less superstitious inhabitants of the Himalayas as a harmless creature that would [put up a terrific display like that of a gorilla when cornered and] attack a man only if wounded.
From what native hunters say the term “snowman” is a misnomer, since firstly it is not human and secondly it does not live in the zone of snow. Its habitat is rather impenetrable thickets of the highest tracts of the Himalayan forests. During the day it sleeps in its lair, which it does not leave until nightfall. Then its approach may be recognized by the cracking of branches [an extremely unpleasant odor] and its peculiar whistling call.
It generally walks upright with an unsteady rolling gait. Why does the creature undertake what must be extremely wearisome expeditions into the inhospitable regions of snow? The natives have what sounds like a very credible explanation: they say the Snowman likes a saline moss which it finds on the rocks of the moraine fields. While searching for this moss it leaves its characteristic tracks on the snowfields. When it has satisfied its hunder for salt it returns to the forest.
The preceding indicates a problem in need of solution before we begin a theoretical discussion. The whole question has been buried under some gross misconceptions, caused primarily by the misnomer “abominable snowman”. It was noted above that the appellation was a mistranslation of the Tibetan of the Tibetan metoh kangmi, Colonel Howard-Bury’s name itself was rather confused, deriving from two terms, meh-teh (thus “metoh” and kangmi. Meh-teh can be translated as “a manlike living thing that is not human” and kangmi means only “man-thing that scrambles [in rocky places].” Although the press in coining the fascinating term “abominable snowman” did succeed in bringing the matter out of seclusion, it also clouded the issue with a misconception and semantic impediment. The misconception is of course the implication that the animal lives in the snow (nor is it likely that the “creature” is a man). The semantic difficulty is simply that the term has negative prejudicial connotations; the reader associates the term with nonsense. The treatment the snowman has been given in various pseudo-scientific magazines, combining both scientific and dramatized depictions, has resulted in a tendency on the part of many reputable anthropologists and zoologists to shrug the whole phenomenon off as myth or deliberate fiction. The point here is that, as the spectre of alchemy had to be overcome before chemistry could be accepted as a respectable science, so must the sensationalized references to the “abominable snowman” be overcome before the phenomenon can be accepted as a legitimate “problem”, worthy of serious consideration. Fortunately, some very reputable scientists have done this, and we shall look at their theories shortly. With this general purpose in mind, we shall hereafter do away with the term “snomman” (except when used by quoted sources) and adopt the other Nepalese-Tibetan name that is most often used: yeti, which in translation is the perfect description of the phenomenon under investigation here, meaning simply “that thing”.
Now that we have listed all the evidence for the existence of the yeti, it is time to examine the various conclusions that have been offered concerning the following two questions: Does it exist, and, if it exists, what is it?
Arguments against the existence of the yeti fall into four main categories. These are that the entire phenomenon is a case of: (1) lies, (2) hallucinations, (3) hoaxes, or (4) repeated cases of misidentification. The argument that they are nothing more than deliberate lies, refers to the sightings that have been reported by hundreds of people in various parts of the world. This argument becomes inconceivable when we recognize that although many cases are undocumented “tales” by “natives”, a great number of them are reports by respectable explorers and highly reputable scientists. The “lies” argument probably accounts for only a small percentage of the sightings. Next is the proposal that the sightings are nothing more than hallucinations. This is also highly unlikely when we note the many cases of several persons observing the phenomenon simultaneously; of official records describing in detail the animal viewed at close range; and the reports of footprints, cries, excrement, and alleged shelters. This brings us to the hoax theory.
This is of course a possible explanation of the footprints, especially with the Piltdown incident as an example of a proven case of hoax in a similar realm. But an examination of the history of sightings, indication the range of distribution and the span of time involved makes the whole idea quite implausible. This is not to say that incidents of persons planting footprints have never taken place, because they have, and this is of course another sad result of the sensationalized press treatment of the matter. Suffice it to say that it is fairly unreasonable to propose that all the many miles of footprints that have been found in an area including a good portion of Asia, quite often in places where human beings could not have even been expected to discover them, during a time span covering at least a century, could have been planted by hoaxers.
An argument related to the hoax theory that has been offered by a few is that the whole thing is impossible because animals just cannot live in the area where the yeti is said to abound. This is still another result of the previously mentioned “snowman” misconception. We have already discovered that the yeti does not live in the snow and that many of the sightings have occurred below the permanent snow line. In the alpine zone “between the forests and the snow there are shrubs, plants, small bushes, coarse grass, lichens, moss, and many kinds of birds and animals, from bears and wolves to ptarmigans,” (Maters, 1959: 32) and thus a yeti would have plenty to eat. The finding of tracks above the snowline could thus be the trails of itinerant yetis travelling from one area in the alpine zone to another, or searching for saline moss they are reported to crave.
Now we come to the most frequently offered arguments against the existence of the yeti: that they are only cases of other known animals which have been misidentified as the unknown animal. An animal frequently proposed as the maker of the yeti tracks is a man:
Tombazi has suggested that they [yetis] may be members of ‘an isolated community of pious Buddhist ascetics, who have renounced the world and sought their God in the utter desolation of some high place.’ other believe that they are ‘nude pious men of our generation who have taken to such a life as a a climax to their religious and philosophic aspirations.’ (Verma, 1959: 9)
The existence of ascetics living above the tree-line in the Himalayas is unquestionable and it also is true that there is no capital punishment in Tibet–due to the predominantly Buddhist nature of the people–and criminals are often just expelled from the community and told to fend for themselves. There is an interesting story about a Hindu pilgrim, confronted by a Colonel Henniker of the British Army while crossing a 17,000 foot pass in Ladakh in 1930 during a snowstorm. According to the story, “he [Henniker] perceived a rather skinny fellow, clothed only in a loincloth, and using a staff, tramping stolidly Tibet-ward. Amazed, he hailed the man in English and received the astonishing and cheery reply ‘Good morning, Sir, and a Happy Christmas.’ (It was mid-July!).” (Sanderson, 1961: 277)
We have established that there are probably many strange types of men wandering the areas in question at various times, but whether clothed or not (and note that those criminals mentioned above have been known to have reached a point of nakedness in their exile from the community, but being Mongoloid have particularly hairless skins), they certainly do not fit the descriptions of the yeti, and their footprints would hardly indicate separated second and first toes and have a plantar index of approximately 1.6.
In 1937, Guy Dollman of the British Museum reacted to reports of yeti sightings by pointing out there are two large langurs found in the Himalaya, and that their presence might have given rise to the yeti sightings. (These monkeys are Semnopithecus schistaceus and Rhinopithecus roxellanae). This theory was expressed again as a reaction to Shipton’s photographs in 1951: “Dr. T.C.S. Morrison-Scott, of the Mammals Section of the British Museum (Natural History), even specified the race of langurs that the [yeti] belonged to. It was a Presbytis (alias Semnopithecus) entellus achilles, a langur whose type specimen came from an altitude of 12,000 feet, some 50 miles north-west of Katmandu in Nepal” (Verma, 1959: 9). That monkeys are the source of some yeti sightings is a certainty, and these sightings do much to convince the public that all yeti-sightings can be written off as monkeys; but the fact is that these can be easily distinguished from other sightings in that their reporters usually state quite clearly the presence of a tail on their “yetis”. This just does not fit in with the great majority of yeti sightings–yetis are not characterized as having tails.
An example of such a sighting is reported in Sports Afield by a Dr. Moore, in which he gives a detailed account of being attacked by a band of five-foot tall hairy primates with snarling fangs and tails, near Katmandu. This is, of course, another case of sensationalized story-telling, including long passages relating the human reactions of the author and his companions:
But those eyes…beady, yellow eyes, that stared at us with obvious demoniacal cunning and anger. That face! weird ideas were beginning tot force their way into my mind. Perhaps…but no…damn it…it has to be! This is the Abominable Snowman! (Moore, 1957: 43)
The title of the article is “I met the Abominable Snowman” and the narrative therein gives a detailed description of Moore’s “yetis” that fits the langur with precision.
All this only blurs the issue becuase the great majority of yeti sightings describe an animal quite different from the langur. Moreover, these monkeys have never been reported above the tree-live, and their range of distribution does not reach the regions where the yetis’ footprints have been found. The prints are nothing like those of a langur, which are obviously those of a quadruped, usually accompanied by marks of the tail, and much too small. And finally, natives like Sherpa Sen Tensing, who have reported seeing the yeti, are very familiar with Himalayan fauna and would not reasonably have mistaken a monkey for a yeti. In the words of Charles Stonor (1955):
As for the langur monkey, every Sherpa knows it. They come up regularly into the fringing forests in the summer months, they are unhappy on the ground, they are gregarious, they are (as any traveler will tell you) one of the most conspicuous beasts of the Himalayan forests.
The animal that is most frequently proposed as the maker of the “yeti” tracks is the Himalayan Red Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus). As in the case of langurs, it is a certainty that some “yeti” sightings and tracks are attributable to bears. A description of some tracks found by Grank Smythe 20,000 feet up in the Bhudar Vally, is the classic example of such a case:
On the level the footmarks averaged 12 inches to 13 inches in length and 6 inches in breadth, but uphill they averaged only 8 inches in length. The stride was some 1 1/2 to 2 feet on the level but considerably less uphill… There were well-defined imprints of five toes, 1 1/2 inches to 1 3/4 inches long and 3/4 of an inch broad, unlike human toes, arranged symmetrically. Lastly, there was what appeared to be the impression of a aheel with two curious toe-like impressions on either side (Heuvelmans, 1958: 134).
These tracks and tracks like these have been mistaken by many as yeti tracks and have lead to legends that the creature walks with its toes pointing backward (a report made even more ludicrous by Gents’ proposal cited above, that the animal walks on his knees and shins–a posture that would leave continuous furrows as a trail and not backward footprints). An examination of a bear’s trail makes it clear how these misconceptions could have arisen. The feet are placed one in front of the other with an inward slant, resembling an extremely “pigeon-toed” man. Moreover, the largest toe, unlike that of a man, is on the outer edge of the print rather
than the inner. To the uninitiated eye, this could easily be interpreted as a man walking with his heels foremost.
Thus it is clear that some tracks and legends concerning the yeti are definitely attributable to bears. But the fact remains that a bear, being a quadruped, leaves blurred tracks due to an overlapping of the fore and hind feet, and only on the infrequent occasions when it rises on its hind legs [resembling] those of a biped. The prints characterized as those of a yeti are clearly of a bipedal nature, in many cases stretching out for several miles and never giving an indication of the animal reverting to a quadrumane posture; slant outward; and have clearly outlined toes, the largest being on the inner edge of the print.
The above are the most comm[on]ly proposed makers of “yeti” tracks, but several other animals have been proposed at various times and should at least be mentioned here. These include the eagle, the extinct Mylodon or giant ground sloth (which is usually considered to have been restricted to the New World), “a large, stray gray wolf” (according to Howard-Bury, 1921), a snow leopard, and finally, a whole group of animals such as foxes following their leader and jumping exactly into the same spots (this is know as “stringing”).
This last suggestion should be given a close investigation as it is reported in connection with on of the most publicized (and most farcical) attempts to “prove” the yeti does not exist. The “Stringing” theory was proposed by Sir Edmund Hillary in an attempt to explain the tracks which he himself had seen on various occasions. Foxes have in fact been known to “string” in exceptional cases, but to believe that tracks formed in this manner could go on for mile after mile producing clearly-defined imprints which are identical and indicate exactly five toes seems just a bit absurd. When this is weighed against the proposal that the tracks were made by a man-like “thing” that occasionally crosses the snowfields, the latter is much more feasible if only on the basis of simplicity (the famed Occam’s razor of scientific investigation). That the former was readily accepted is just another manifestation of the damage done to the problem by the whole “abominable snowman” sensationalism. The “stringing” theory was proposed by Hillary in an article (Hillary, 1961) in which he claimed to have proven satisfactorily that the yeti was a “serow” (Capricornis sumatrensis thar) or “goat-antelope”. This pronouncement was the report made as the conclusion of an expedition organized in 1960 to get the “low-down” on the yeti. The most “condemning” piece of evidence proposed by Hillary was in connection with the previously mentioned yeti scalps. What Hillary did with these scalps is tersely described by Sanderson (1961):
He [Hillary] had a “scalp” made from a skin taken from a rare local animal named a Serow; borrowed one of the old caps made to look like a [yeti] scalp (and which was admitted to be a fake by the villagers he got it from); …flew off around the world, displaying the cap on television and handing out hairs and bits of skin to scientists. With these bits went a challenge to identify the hairs and dried blood. It took a scientist in Paris [Heuvelmans] just one day to identify the hairs (as being from a Serow) but, strangely, microphotos of them did not match those made of hairs pulled from other scalps in Nepal by other scientists! On the basis of this confusing and meaningless test Sir Edmund presumed to claim that no [yetis] existed.
Thus we find that Hillary actually perpetrated somewhat of a a hoax to prove the yeti did not exist! This could only have happened to an animal called the “abominable snowman”.
By now it should have become, in some measure, clear that evidence does exist which would exert a mandate for full-scale investigation in any objective situation. It is the sensational aspects of the yeti phenomenon which causes the greater portion of the literature to explore the matter as a non-existent problem, seeking to dispel it rather than explain it. A truly objective approach to the problem ought to include theoretical speculation concerning possible primate origins for the creature. Certainly such consideration can do no harm, can possibly place the yeti in evolutionary perspective, and give us some indications as to whether any such evidence does indeed exist. It is this sort of speculation that we shall now consider.
If one accepts the yeti as an unknown species, which zoological group is it most likely to belong to on the basis of the evidence we have? Hominoidea immediately becomes obvious as the only group containing animals that approximate the descriptions of the yeti. Furthermore, the anthropoids of the family Pongidae come very close to fulfilling the yeti description. As Lawrence Swan (1958) states: “Whereas it is perhaps presumptuous to assume, at this time, that the yeti is in reality some large anthorpoid ape, it seems that this possibility has not been eliminated or sufficiently considered in the current arguments of the yeti critics.” He supports this statement by pointing out that the description of the scalps (having a conical occipital extension, indicating prominent temporal and nuchal crests) suggest a pongid, and that the footprints closely resemble a cast of a foot of a mountain gorilla (made by Carl Akeley in East Africa).
Thus we have postulated the existence of a hitherto unknown ape of Central Asia. The possibility of this is supported by finds of the Dryopithecus in China and the Ramapithecus in northwest India (Coon, 1962: 203); and the fact that the giant panda and the langur, obth original inhabitants of the aarea in question when it was near-tropical, adapted to the changing conditions when the mountains rose and the area cooled off (Ley, 1962: 87). Furthermore, “the mountain gorilla sometimes inhabits relatively high altitudes (its presence on snow fields has been recorded) in an alpine ecological zone not unlike that found in the Himalayas. The zoographical stuts of the eastern Himalays as an area where relictual genera are frequent suggest that the existence of relictual high-altitude ape with relatives in the tropics of Africa and Southern Asia is not an illogical suppostion. Similar distributions are found among other mammal groups which at one time were widespread in Asia” (Swan, 1958).
We have seen, then, that the existence of a pongid in the areas in question is possible on a zoological basis, but we must now recognize that this would have to be a pongid with some special characteristics, the most obvious being the adoption of a bipedal posture (or at least, the ability to travel on two feet for comparatively great distances). That such an environmental adaption could have been make is suggested by findings of D. Sydney W. Britton, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia (Britton, 1955). Curious to see how a chimpanzee would react, he confronted one with the phenomenon of new-fallen snow. After its first few steps (in a quadrupedal posture) it stood up in a bipedal stance and went on walking in the same position. Investigation further, he found that the chimp could remain up-right for up to eight hours. Thus the Himalayan yeti could have adapted to (semi-)bipedalism in an attempt to reduce to a minimum the painful contact with snow necessitated by its frequent pilgrimages above the snowline. The yeti’s other unusual characteristics could also be explained in terms of environmental adaption.
First there is the matter of size, the yeti being characterized as reaching heights of above seven feet and being quite bulky in appearance. According to Bergman’s rule (which has been shown to apply as well to “civilized” man as to other animals (Newman, 1964: 103), warm blooded animals of a given species are larger in colder regions that in warmer ones (Coon, 1954). This could serve to explain the yeti’s size, as it is proposed to be a denizen of the alpine zone and frequents the snowfields. (There would be, of course, varying degrees of stature depending on the maturity of the specimen sighted).
That the yeti has an abundant coat of long hair is also an obvious cold adaption fulfilling Rensh’s rule that animals of a given species have longer hair in cold regions than those in warmer regions (Coon, 1954). Moreover, the reports that the yeti’s face is covered with hair that is much shorter than its head hairs (which have been described as reaching almost to its shoulders in some cases) is another expected adaption. As Newton (1964) points out, in cold climates the exhaled breath would freeze in beards, along with the skin underneath, thus making short facial hair adaptive. It would be useful at this point to recall Karapetyans’ description (page 10 above) which notes that the wild man he examined sweated profusely in a warmed room.
The yeti’s comparatively large chest (referred to in many of the sightings) is an expected altitude adaptation; anthropometric work has shown that high altitude peoples have large chests due to highly developed respiratory system (Coon, 1962: 70).
The wide distribution indicated by the yeti sightings can be explained by the following rule: “…individual animals of large size take up disproportionately more room than small animals, and…the relationship between the sizes of their ranges is believed to be logarithmic. A large animal needs a great deal of space not only for feeding and drinking but also for concealment it the heat of day and for sleeping and reproduction (Coon, 1962: 39). Coon further points out that the boundaries between the Oriental and Palearctic regions have a very gradual climatic cline and thus allow free passage of animals between the regions. This might also prove significant in that the yeti has been sighted in both these faunal regions.
The last characteristic we shall consider here is the foot, which is the best represented yeti feature. The shape of the foot is significant, for as Coon (1962: 61) points out, people who go barefoot in cold water or snow tend to have short broad feet with short toes. the shortening of the hallus could also be an adaptation to the cold, since a shortened, in drawn digit is less exposed to the cold.
An alternative explanation is the theory that man has retained the plantigrade feet of a primitive mammal, i.e., not evolved from ape-like prehensile feet. This would indicate that apes descended from ground-living primates with plantigrade feet and that the apes opposable hallus was a brachiating adaption. Thus the yeti could be described as a primate that, like man, had not become specialized to an arboreal existence and would, like him, have retained truly plantigrade feet. It is also apparent that a giant pongid would likewise be ill-equipped for existence on open plains, and thus the mountains would be a suitable habitat (That this is likely is indicated by the fact that another large terrestrial pongid, the gorilla, has followed just this progression to the high country). Thus, in theory, a race of giant apes, with premitive plantigrade feet, could have arisen in the alpine zone, and adopted a tendency to stand on their hind-legs. Heuvelmans proposed the name Dinanthropoides nivalis for the yeti (1958: 178).
Thus we have seen a theory proposed placing the yeti in Pongidae. This was first stated as a thory by Heuvelmans in 1952. His argument proposed that the yeti is a giant bipedal anthropoid, closely related to the Gigantopithecus. It should be noted here that an identical theory was proposed by Tschernezky two years later without knowledge of Heuvelman’s work. In summation, “During the last three years members of several expeditions to Mount Everest have reported stories of a creature which could be a survival of von Koenigswald’s giant ape (Coon, 1954: 28).
Now that we have a positive argument for the existence of the yeti, we are confronted with the seemingly paradoxical fact that no yeti has ever been captured (this is to say that no reputable scientists have ever been presented with a genuine yeti for examination) in spite of several expeditions taken for that purpose. There are two factors which can easily be recognized as instrumental in keeping information about the yeti away from expeditioners. One is that many of the natives who are familiar with the creature have a deep-seated reverence for it; and that it has a definite place in their religious beliefs (many of the natives questioned about the yeti expressed the belief that they are the embodiments of lost souls). The problem was explained by a lama at Melunche:
The people of the mountains, he said, were shy of the expeditions; since they are naturally polite, they say things to please the foreigners, but all the same they don’t want to be too helpful. There’s a deep-rooted belief among Sherpas that any harm which comes to a yeti through a foreigner will recoil upon themselves; this is so strongly held that the lamas of the high Himalayan monasteries, as well as many laymen, have protested against the foreign yeti hunts (Holt, 1959: 46).
The other factor which has probably kept the yeti away from various expeditions is the nature of the expeditions themselves. If the yeti is an animal indigenous to the alpine regions of the Himalayas and is accustomed to trekking across the high altitude snowfields, is it not reasonable that it be capable of eluding a band of men climbing over the mountains above the snowline? We should note here that actual sightings have been chance occurrences, usually involving one or two observers. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the following example is offered as a typical sighting:
In 1948, two Norwegians, Throberg and Frostis, while surveying the Zemu Glacier area on behalf of the Indian Government, actually pursued two of the track-makers and, being on skis, managed to head them off just below the 19,000 ft. Zemu Gap–in the very region where Hunt and Tombazi had reported their experiences. Instead of shooting first, and so probably settling the whole problem at one stroke, Thorberg conceived the rather cheerful idea of lassoing one of the creatures; but it deftly jerked the noose away, while its companion promptly flung itself upon Frostis, knocked him over and seriously mauled his shoulder with its teeth. Thorberg immediately fired at the other. Startled by the shot, the creatures made off rapidly and escaped, leaving a trail of blood in the snow; while the party–which included two Hindu assistants and a Sherpa–were, somewhat naturally, too preoccupied with attentions to the injured man to give any further thought to pursuit. The important point, however, is that all five men, including the Sherpa, with all his ingrained superstitions, had no doubt whatever that this encounter at all-too-close quarters was with a couple of large apes (Merrick, 1954).
Another reason why the fact that the yeti has not been captured is not damaging to the case for its existence is that many other large creatures have been discovered that were once considered to be extinct or mythical. The giant panda, an animal that at times has been proposed as the originator of the yeti tracks, was at one time considered to be an impossible beast. But in 1869, a specimen was killed, and confronted with this evidence several scientific institutions supported field teams staffed by professional collectors for the purpose of capturing a live panda. But in spite of professional excitement, no new pandas were even seen until 1915, and no new remains were obtained until 1929. It was not until 1937 that a live specimen was captured.
The implications of the Giant Panda incident are tersely expressed by George A. Agogino, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming:
In retrospect, the hunt for the Giant Panda serves as an important lesson in regard to animal collecting. From 1869 until 1929, a period sixty years, a dozen well-staffed and well-equipped professional zoological teams unsuccessfully sought an animal the size of a small bear in a restricted area. During this time not a single specimen living or dead was obtained. The lesson is clear. The Giant Panda lives in the same general area and at the same general elevation (6,000 to 12,000 feet) as the yeti, yet this animal remained hidden for over sixty years. The yeti can well be a similar case. At any rate, one can no longer dismiss the yeti just because it has eluded moderate search for a single decade (Sanderson, 1961: ix).
Other animals with a similar history of discovery are the Okapi of the Congo and Cotton’s Cereothere or White Reinoceros. Moreover, the discovery of living coelacanths tends to make the Gigantopithecus theory more palatable.
No that we have reviewed the evidence for the yeti and have found that there are some cogent arguments among the mass of muddled sensationalism, it seems reasonable to conclude that the yeti question does indeed constitute a problem, and is a viable subject for further serious anthropological investigation. In the words of Carleton Coon (1962: 208):
“If there really is, or has recently been, a large bipedal primate in Central Asia, its discovery, dead or alive, would be of enormous importance, not only for primate taxonomy but for its bearing on the theoretical relationship between the erect posture, tool-making, speech, and culture.”
NOTE: Mike had planned an expedition to Northern California during summer 1967 yet he met a young woman falling in love and the expedition was postponed. Coincidentally Roger Patterson filmed his infamous Sasquatch footage in the same area as mapped above so the Bigfoot hunt was permanently cancelled…
*For a full Bibliography please see below…
In this episode, the cast of Finding Bigfoot visits the Bigfoot Discovery Museum to sign autographs and meet their fans.
Welcome to the first episode of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum Show. In this episode, we ask Mike a bit about the museum and why he is qualified to open the Bigfoot Discovery Museum.
Our 200th episode! In this episode, Mike gives his thoughts on how many Sasquatch there might be in Santa Cruz county.
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