Migoi, Meh-teh et al.)
Purported Yeti scalp at Khumjung monastery
|Sub grouping||Homin, Hominid|
The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an apelike animal cryptid said to inhabit the Himalaya region of Nepal and Tibet. The names Yeti and Meh-Teh are commonly used by the people indigenous to the region, and are part of their history and mythology. Nepalese have various names for Yeti like "Bonmanche" which means "wild man" or " Kangchenjunga rachyyas" which means "Kanchanjunga's demon."
The scientific community largely dismisses the Yeti as a fraud supported by legend and weak evidence, yet it remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology. The Yeti is an example of a homin and as such can be considered a Himalayan parallel to Bigfoot (Sasquatch) or beast.
The name Yeti is derived from the Tibetan je-tiet ( Tibetan: གཡའ་དྲེད་, Wylie: g.ya' dred), a compound of the words yeh ( Tibetan: གཡའ་, Wylie: g.ya'), meaning "rocky" or "rocky place", and pe-tah ( Tibetan: དྲེད་, Wylie: dred), which translates as "bear", the full name being "rock bear".
Pranavananda states that the words "ti", "te" and "teh" are derived from the spoken word 'tre' (spelled "dred"), Tibetan for bear, with the 'r' so softly pronounced as to be almost inaudible, thus making it "te" or "teh".
Other terms used by Himalayan peoples do not translate exactly the same, but refer to legendary and indigenous wildlife:
- Kang Admi, Mirka, Migoi, Dzu-teh, Meh-teh ( Tibetan: མི་དྲེད་, Wylie: mi dred) translates as "man-bear".
- Dzu-teh - 'dzu' translates as "cattle" and the full meaning translates as "cattle bear" and is the Himalayan Red Bear.
- Migoi or Mi-go ( Tibetan: མི་རྒོད་, Wylie: mi rgod) (pronounced mey-goo) translates as "wild man".
- Mirka - another name for "wild-man", however as local legend has it "anyone who sees one dies or is killed". The latter is taken from a written statement by Frank Smythe's sherpas in 1937.
- Kang Admi - "Snow Man".
Himalayan wildlife attributed to the Yeti sightings include the Chu-Teh, a Langur monkey living at lower altitudes, the Tibetan Blue Bear, the Himalayan Brown Bear and the Dzu-Teh (commonly known as the Himalayan Red Bear).
The term Yeti is often used to describe various reported creatures:
- A large apelike biped (that some suggest could be a Gigantopithecus)
- Human-sized bipedal apes (the Almas and the Yeren (Chinese wildman)
- Dwarflike creatures (such as the Orang Pendek).
The term is often used to refer to creatures fitting any of the aforementioned descriptions. For example, the fear liath has been dubbed as the "Scottish Yeti".
The "Abominable Snowman"
The appellation "Abominable Snowman" was not coined until 1921, the same year Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury led the Royal Geographical Society's " Everest Reconnaissance Expedition" which he chronicled in Mount Everest The Reconnaissance, 1921. In the book, Howard-Bury includes an account of crossing the "Lhakpa-la" at 21,000 ft (6,400 m) where he found footprints that he believed "were probably caused by a large 'loping' grey wolf, which in the soft snow formed double tracks rather like a those of a barefooted man". He adds that his Sherpa guides "at once volunteered that the tracks must be that of "The Wild Man of the Snows", to which they gave the name "metoh-kangmi". "Metoh" translates as "man-bear" and "Kang-mi" translates as "snowman".
A bit of confusion exists between Howard-Bury's recitation of the term "metoh-kangmi" and the term used in Bill Tilman's book Mount Everest, 1938 where Tilman had used the words "metch", which may not exist in the Tibetan language, and "kangmi" when relating the coining of the term "Abominable Snowman". Further evidence of "metch" being a misnomer is provided by Tibetan language authority Professor David Snellgrove from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (ca. 1956), who dismissed the word "metch" as impossible, because the consonants "t-c-h" cannot be conjoined in the Tibetan language." Documentation suggests that the term "metch-kangmi" is derived from one source (from the year 1921). It has been suggested that "metch" is simply a misspelling of "metoh".
Like the legend itself, the origin of the term "Abominable Snowman" is rather colourful. It began when Mr Henry Newman, a longtime contributor to The Statesman in Kolkata, using the pen name "Kim", interviewed the porters of the "Everest Reconnaissance expedition" upon their return to Darjeeling,. Newman mistranslated the word "metoh" as "filthy" or "dirty", substituting the term "abominable", perhaps out of artistic license. As author Bill Tilman recounts, "[Newman] wrote long after in a letter to The Times: The whole story seemed such a joyous creation I sent it to one or two newspapers'".
Events and studies
In 1832, the James Prinsep's Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal published trekker B. H. Hodgson's account of the Yeti in northern Nepal. His native guides spotted a tall, bipedal creature covered with long dark hair, which seemed to flee in fear. Hodgson did not see the creature, but concluded it was an orangutan.
An early record of reported footprints appeared in 1889 in L. A. Waddell's Among the Himalayas. Waddell reported his guide's description of a large apelike creature that left the prints, which Waddell concluded were actually made by a bear. Waddell heard stories of bipedal, apelike creatures, but wrote that of the many witnesses he questioned, none "could ever give ... an authentic case. On the most superficial investigation it always resolved into something that somebody had heard of."
Early 20th century
The frequency of reports increased during the early 20th century, when Westerners began making determined attempts to scale the many mountains in the area and occasionally reported seeing odd creatures or strange tracks.
In 1925, N. A. Tombazi, a photographer and member of the Royal Geographical Society, writes that he saw a creature at about 15,000 ft (4,600 m) near Zemu Glacier. Tombazi later wrote that he observed the creature from about 200 to 300 yd (180 to 270 m), for about a minute. "Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes. It showed up dark against the snow, and as far as I could make out, wore no clothes." About two hours later, Tombazi and his companions descended the mountain, and saw what they assumed to be the creature's prints, described as "similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide... The prints were undoubtedly those of a biped."
The Pangboche Scalp
The Daily Mail Expedition of 1954, on March 19 printed an article which described expedition teams obtaining hair specimens from a scalp found in Pangboche monastery. The hair was analysed by Professor Frederic Wood Jones, (who died on September 29 1954) and an expert in human and comparative anatomy.
The research consisted of taking microphotographs of the hairs and comparing them with hairs from known animals such as bears and orangutans. Professor Woods-Jones concluded that the hairs of the Pangboche scalp were not actually from a scalp. He contended that some animals do have a ridge of hair extending from the pate to the back, but no animals have a ridge (as in the Pangboche relic) running from the base of the forehead across the pate and ending at the nape of the neck.
The hairs were black to dark brown in colour in dim light, and fox red in sunlight. None of the hairs had been dyed. During the study, the hairs were bleached, cut into sections and analysed microscopically. Wood-Jones was unable to pinpoint the animal from which the Pangboche hairs were taken. He was, however, convinced that the hairs were not of a bear or anthropoid ape. He suggested that the hairs were not from the head of a coarse-haired hoofed animal, but from its shoulder.
Late 20th century
Western interest in the Yeti peaked dramatically in the 1950s. While attempting to scale Mount Everest in 1951, Eric Shipton took photographs of a number of large prints in the snow, at about 6,000 m (20,000 ft) above sea level. These photos have been subject to intense scrutiny and debate. Some argue they are the best evidence of Yeti's existence, while others contend the prints to be from a mundane creature, and have been distorted by the melting snow.
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest. But Hillary would later discount Yeti reports as unreliable. In his first autobiography Tenzing said that he believed the Yeti was a large ape, and although he had never seen it himself his father had seen one twice, but in his second autobiography he said he had become much more skeptical about its existence.
During the Daily Mail Snowman Expedition of 1954, the largest search of its kind, the mountaineering leader John Angelo Jackson, made the first trek from Everest to Kangchenjunga during which he photographed symbolic paintings of the Yeti at Tengboche gompa. Jackson tracked and photographed many footprints in the snow, most of which were identifiable. However, there were many large footprints which could not be identified. The flattened footprint-like indentations were attributed to erosion and subsequent widening of the original footprint by wind and particles.
Beginning in 1957, wealthy American oilman Tom Slick funded a few missions to investigate Yeti reports. In 1959, supposed Yeti feces were collected by Slick's expedition; fecal analysis found a parasite which could not be classified. Bernard Heuvelmans wrote, "Since each animal has its own parasites, this indicated that the host animal is equally an unknown animal."
In 1960, Sir Edmund Hillary mounted an expedition to collect and analyze physical evidence of the Yeti. He sent a Yeti "scalp" from the Khumjung monastery to the West for testing, whose results indicated the scalp to be manufactured from the skin of the serow
, a goat-like Himalayan antelope. But some disagreed with this analysis. Myra Shackley said that the "hairs from the scalp look distinctly monkey-like, and that it contains parasitic mites of a species different from that recovered from the serow."
In 1970, British mountaineer Don Whillans claims to have witnessed a creature when scaling Annapurna. While scouting for a campsite, Whillans heard some odd cries which his Sherpa guide attributed to a Yeti's call. That very night, Whillans saw a dark shape moving near his camp. The next day, he observed a few human-like footprints in the snow, and that evening, viewed with binoculars a bipedal, apelike creature for 20 minutes as it apparently searched for food not far from his camp. Nothing was seen again.
In 1980 a Chinese team found a dozen nests, some in trees and some on the ground, in an area called Fengshuyang in the Zhejiang province.
In 1984, famed mountaineer David P. Sheppard of Hoboken, New Jersey, was near the southern Col of Everest and claims to have been followed by a large, furry man over the course of several days. His sherpas, however, say they saw no such thing. He claims to have taken a photograph, but a later study of it proved inconclusive.
There is a famous Yeti hoax, known as the snow walker film, created by Fox television network, in an attempt to deceive the public. The footage was created for Paramount's UPN show, Paranormal Borderland, ostensibly by the show's producers. The show ran from March 12 to August 6, 1996. Its origins had nothing to do with Fox Television, although Fox purchased and used the footage in their later program on The World's Greatest Hoaxes.
In early December 2007, American television presenter Joshua Gates and his team reported finding a series of footprints in the Everest region of Nepal resembling descriptions of Yeti. Each of the footprints were measured 33 cm (13 in) in length with five toes that measured a total of 25 cm (9.8 in) across. Casts were made of the prints for further research. The footprints were examined by an expert who believed them to be too physiologically accurate to be fake or man made. The expert also stated that they were very similar to a pair of bigfoot footprints that were found in another area.
On July 7, 2008, the BBC news programme The World Today' broadcast an interview with wildlife artist Pollyanna Pickering, who said she had been shown a yeti scalp and had drawn a picture of a yeti based on descriptions by local people. See transcript in footnote:
On July 25, 2008, the BBC reported that hairs collected in the remote Garo Hills area of North-East India by Dipu Marak had been analyzed at Oxford Brookes University in the UK by primatologist Anna Nekaris and microscopy expert Jon Wells. The tests were inconclusive, though ape conservation expert Ian Redmond told the BBC that there was similarity between the cuticle pattern of these hairs and specimens collected by Edmund Hilary during Himalayan expeditions in the 1950s and donated to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and that it was possible that the hairs came from a previously unrecognized primate. DNA analysis is currently being conducted.
In his book Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, primatologist John Napier provides firsthand reports and analysis on the subject, and argues that amongst the evidence for the Yeti, "unlike the Sasquatch, there is little uniformity of pattern, and what uniformity there is incriminates the bear."
- Linguistic Corruption
In 2003, Japanese mountaineer Makoto Nebuka published the results of his twelve year linguistic study postulating that the word "Yeti" is actually a corruption of the word "meti", a regional dialect term for "bear". As in other traditional cultures, the ethnic Tibetans fear and worship the bear as a supernatural being. Nebuka's claims were subject to almost immediate criticism, and was accused of linguistic carelessness. Dr Raj Kumar Pandey, who has researched both Yetis and mountain languages, said "it is not enough to blame tales of the mysterious beast of the Himalayas on words that rhyme but mean different things."
After reviewing eyewitness accounts and physical evidence, many cryptozoologists have concluded that Yeti reports are misidentification of already known creatures. Even well-financed expeditions have turned up no positive evidence of its existence. One well publicized expedition to Bhutan reported that a hair sample had been obtained that, after DNA analysis by Professor Bryan Sykes, could not be matched to any known animal. Analysis completed after the media release, however, clearly showed that the samples were from the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) and the Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus).
In 1986, South Tyrolean mountaineer Reinhold Messner claimed to have a face-to-face encounter with a Yeti. He has since written a book, My Quest for the Yeti, and claims to have actually killed one. According to Messner, the Yeti is actually the endangered Himalayan Brown Bear, Ursus arctos isabellinus, that can walk upright or on all fours.
Enthusiasts speculate that these reported creatures could be present-day specimens of the extinct giant ape Gigantopithecus, as the only evidence recovered from Gigantopithecus (other than teeth) are jawbone remains indicating a skull atop a vertical spinal column (as in hominines and other bipedal apes such as Oreopithecus bambolii). However, while the Yeti is generally described as bipedal, most scientists believe Gigantopithecus to be quadrupedal, and so massive that, unless it evolved specifically as a bipedal ape (like Oreopithecus and the hominids), walking upright would have been even more difficult for the now extinct primate than it is for its extant quadrupedal relative, the orangutan.
Mysteries of the Unexplained, published in 1982 by the Reader's Digest, contains the following unattributed quote on page 157: "The Yeti has been sensationalized out of all proportion to reality. To the Sherpas there is nothing mysterious about it; the creature has been part of their lives and recollections for at least 200 years. Himalayan villagers and hunters include it as just another animal when discussing local fauna. If it seems elusive, it is because its habitat lies far from human paths....Its home is in the highest Himalayan forests, deep in almost impenetrable thickets. When it ventures into the snow area...it walks upright...The Sherpas suggest its reason for crossing the snowfields is to seek a saline moss that grows on the rocks of moraines. Ivan Sanderson says it is not moss they seek but lichens, which are rich in food value."
In 2004, Henry Gee, editor of the prestigious magazine Nature, argued that creatures like Yetis deserved further study, writing, "The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as Yetis are founded on grains of truth ... Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold."
Yeti in popular culture
The Yeti has become a cultural icon, appearing in movies, books and video games. The creature is usually depicted as the scary "Abominable Snowman", but is occasionally shown as being misunderstood or used as comic relief.
Some of the more notable appearances in television include the long-running American Christmas television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as "The Bumble", The Abominable Snowman, and as the Yeti in " The Abominable Snowmen", a six part serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. Other television programs include the Bugs Bunny cartoon "The Abominable Snow Rabbit" and the episodes Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, " That's Snow Ghost", and The Mighty Boosh, " Call of the Yeti". Film appearances include the 1957 British horror film The Abominable Snowman and the 1990 Bollywood film, Ajooba Kudrat Kaa which tells the story of a girl who befriends a giant Yeti.
In literature the Yeti has appeared in Tintin in Tibet, by Hergé, where the creature saves Tintin's friend Chang Chong-Chen. The Yeti features in The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, the 38th book in R. L. Stine's Goosebumps franchise, and as a plot point in Terry Pratchett's book Thief of Time, which posits an interesting way for the Yeti (as a species) to survive multiple extinctions. The Abominable Snowman is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics Universe and has featured in a gamebook (a form of narrative, usually written in the second person, that allows the reader to participate in the story by choosing various narrative paths using numbered references) in the Choose Your Own Adventure series.
The Yeti has appeared in multipe video games including Pokémon (as the Abomasnow in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl), Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2, Tomb Raider II, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, Metal Slug 3, World of Warcraft, the MMORPG MapleStory, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
The Yeti is featured in Expedition Everest at Walt Disney World Resort's Animal Kingdom. The Yeti (in the form of a computer generated shadow and a large robotic creature) attacks a mountain train.
The Yeti also appears in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.