The yeti or abominable snowman is a shy, apelike creature that supposedly lives in the mountains. Yeti sightings are most often reported in the Himalayans near Nepal, but twenty-three countries have their own version of this gentle giant.
Unlike other “monsters” of its type, scientists and even well-known explorers, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, have taken the yeti reports seriously enough to conduct their own research.
Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, saw large footprints while climbing Mount Everest. Norgay’s father had reportedly seen the yeti twice, and Norgay himself believed the creature was a large ape, although later in life he became much more skeptical.
Yeti feces were apparently discovered in 1959. When analyzed, the coveted snowman poop contained an unknown parasite. Since each animal has its own parasites, this indicated that the feces came from an as-yet-unknown creature. (Or at least that’s what Bernard Heuvelmans said, but he was a cryptozoologist, so he might have been a tad biased.)
The U.S. government was convinced of the yeti’s existence, to the point that they came up with a list of rules to follow when the creature was discovered. Yeti hunters had to have a Nepalese permit, not harm the yeti (unless it was necessary to save their own lives), and let the Nepalese government decide how the news of a yeti discovery should be reported.
Soon even Hollywood was getting into the act. Actor James Stewart smuggled yeti remains from India back to London in his luggage. This Pangboche Hand was one of the most intriguing objects in the ongoing quest for the yeti, and many years later, NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries was able to have tissue samples from the hand analyzed. The results showed that the Pangboche hand was very close to human tissue, but was not actually human. Unfortunately, the hand has since been stolen.
A DNA analysis was performed on samples of hair from an unidentified animal in northern India on the west of the Himalayas, and one from Bhutan. They matched a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Norway that dates back to between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago.
Some people are convinced that the yeti is actually a rare species of bear that spends much of its time in trees and can walk upright. The Asiatic Black Bear leaves a hominoid-appearing track, both in that it is elongated like a human foot but with a “thumb” and in that the four-footed animal’s gait can appear bipedal.
Whether a mystical creature or some weird real-life version of Yogi Bear, the yeti continues to capture our hearts and our imaginations. In fiction, he (or she) is usually portrayed as happy-go-lucky, if slightly dimwitted. Our assumptions about the creature’s good nature could be true–I couldn’t find a single report of a yeti attack. (Unless you believe the rumours about Dyatlov Pass.)
What do you think? Do yetis exist, and if so, are they an animal we haven’t discovered yet, or just a really strange bear?
Would you want to see a yeti?