Unknown Primate of Central Asia.
Etymology: Sherpa or Newari (Sino-Tibetan) word. Said to be pronounced "yeh-tay." Meaning and origin not established, though one derivation is "rock animal": yeh ("snowy mountain" or "rocky area") + teh ("animal"). Another is that teh is the same as dred ("bear"). (Interestingly, in modern Tibetan, dred pa means "contempt" or "disgust," as in Abominable SNOWMAN.) Te can be a particle attached to a verb and means "when," "after," "thus," "although," or forms a gerund ("-ing"); ye has the meaning of "primordial" or "first." Yi dwags are Tibetan "hungry ghosts" (one of the six classes of sentient beings).
Variant names: Abominable Snowman, BAN-JHANKRI, Chelovek medvied, Chelovek mishka (Russian, "bear man"), CHU-MUNG, Dre-Mo, Dzu-Teh, Jungli-Admi, Khya, Metoh-Kangmi, Mi-Chen-Po, Mi-Go, Mi-Teh, Osodrashin, Pi, Rakshi-Bompo, Samdja (Tibetan, "man-animal"?), Snezhniy chelovek (Russian, "snowman"), Sogpa, Yah-teh, Yeh-teh.
The Sherpas in the Himalayas often speak of two or three types of Yeti, though the classifications get blurred. Charles Stonor heard of two, the DZU-TEH (probably a bear) and the Ml-Teh (the true Yeti). Tom Slick was told of the SOGPA (the true Yeti), the Dzu-Teh (more like a large, yak-killing bear), and the Mi-Teh (a smaller Yeti). Panday credits a Sherpa of the Khumbu Valley with distinguishing the Mi-Teh (true Yeti), Dzu-Teh (large bear), and Teh-Lma (a small Yeti or gibbon).
Scientific name: Dinanthropoides nivalis, given by Bernard Heuvelmans in 1958. (An earlier name, Homo nivis odiosus, given by Harold W. Tilman in 1937, was facetious.)
Physical description: Thickset and muscular. Height, 5 feet 6 inches—7 feet 6 inches tall. Weight, 200—400 pounds. Covered with a thick coat of dark grayish-brown or reddish-brown hair. The dark Yetis are said to be larger than the reddish ones. High, pointed head with sagittal crest. Less hair on the face. Both white and dark skin have been reported. Flat nose. Wide mouth. Large teeth. Females have large breasts. Arms reach to its knees. Large hands. Long fingers. Bowed legs. Feet are plantigrade. No tail.
Scalps: The Yeti scalp at the Pangboche Monastery, Nepal, is 7.5 inches tall, 9.75 inches long, and 6.75 inches wide. Conical. The circumference at the base is 17.25 inches. Reddish hair grows especially thick along a supposed sagittal crest. The blackish skin has the texture of brittle leather. It is said to be from a male.
The scalp at the Khumjung Monastery, Nepal, is roughly the same size and said to be from a female. This is the scalp borrowed by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1960 and examined by specialists at the Field Museum in Chicago. It was made from the skin of a Himalayan goat-antelope, the Serow (Naemorhedus sumatraensis).
The scalp at the Namche Bazar Monastery, Nepal, is an obvious fake copy of others.
Mummified hands: A Yeti arm said to be at the Makalu Monastery in Nepal consists of the paw and forearm of a Snow leopard (Uncia uncia).
The Pangboche Monastery hand is unusual. In 1959, Peter Byrne was permitted to examine the hand, from which he removed a thumb and phalanx, replacing them with human fingers he secretly brought with him. With the assistance of actor James Stewart and his wife Gloria, the real bones were smuggled to England, where they were examined by primatologist W. C. Osman Hill. At first, Hill thought the sample was human, but he later changed his mind, considering it Neanderthal-like. Zoologist Charles A. Leone was baffled, but George Agogino thought it might be an ape's. When Sir Edmund Hillary examined the Pangboche hand in
1960 and declared it a mix of human and animal, he was looking at it after Byrne's switch. The current whereabouts of the pilfered sample is unknown.
Behavior: Primarily nocturnal. Reclusive. Migratory. Walks bipedally with a sidling gait, but sometimes runs on all fours. Sometimes slides down snowy slopes. Sure-footed on steep or difficult ground. Females throw their breasts over their shoulders to run. Feeds on pikas, rodents, hares, large insects, birds, eggs, moss, and bamboo shoots and possibly small yaks, tahr, and musk deer. Has apparently raided potato crops and village wells. Can be persuaded to drink the local beer (chang). Call is a loud, gull-like yelping, mewing, or a high-pitched cry. It also chatters. When angered, it will damage huts and tear up shrubs. Makes a rough nest from dwarf juniper branches. Apparently has little or no technology. At least two reports have it using bow and arrows, although these may actually refer to a WILDMAN type in the same region. Stories of Yeti-human relationships exist; some families in Melumche and Chilankha in Nepal are said to have been raised by a Yeti mother and a Sherpa father, while in Tarke, there are families raised by a Sherpa mother and a Yeti father.
Tracks: Length, 8—13 inches. Maximum width, 4—6 inches. Large big toe is separated from three or four smaller ones. Impression in the snow is deeper than a human track. Trail is a fairly straight line. Stride ranges from 1 foot 8 inches to 3 feet.
Habitat: Lives in the forest below the snow line and in the autumn occasionally goes out in search of food on the snowfields from 10,000 to 23,000 feet. In Sikkim State, India, it is said to live along the Talung-Chu escarpment and climb to an altitude of 27,900 feet.
Distribution: The Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, Kashmir, India, and Bhutan; the southern Tibetan Plateau; southern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China; northwestern Yunnan Province, China.
Significant sightings: In 1832, British minister to Nepal Brian H. Hodgson was the first Westerner to write about apelike creatures in the high Himalayas, which some of his employees had seen.
Laurence A. Waddell came across large footprints in 1889 at an elevation of 17,000 feet in northeastern Sikkim State, India. His Tibetan guides said they were made by Wildmen, but Waddell thought they were bear tracks.
In 1917, a female Yeti captured a boy from Keronja village, near Dhading, Nepal. According to a story told sixty years later, their descendants are said to still live there.
On September 22, 1921, Charles Howard-Bury encountered gigantic, humanlike tracks at an altitude above 20,000 feet in the Lhakpa La Pass, Tibet.
In 1925, British photographer A. N. Tombazi got a brief glimpse of a naked human figure walking upright at an altitude of 15,000 feet near the Zemu Glacier, Sikkim State, India. Upon reaching the spot where he had seen it, he found fifteen small footprints with pointed heels.
John Hunt found unidentified tracks at 19,000 feet on the Zemu Glacier, Sikkim State, India, in 1937.
A man named Mingmah, of Pangboche, Nepal, was tending his yaks in March 1949 when he heard a loud call. He saw it was a Yeti, so he hid inside a stone hut nearby. Through a chink in the stones, he could see the creature only a few feet away. It moved around on two legs and snarled when it saw him in the hut. Mingmah thrust a smoldering stick from the fire at it, and the Yeti ran away.
Monks at Thyangboche Monastery watched a grayish-brown, 5-foot Yeti emerge from rhododendron bushes and play in the snow in November 1949. The monks scared it away by blowing conch shells and striking cymbals.
In December 1950, Sherpa Sen Tensing was returning to Phortse with some companions after attending a festival at Thyangboche when a reddish-brown Yeti came up the trail in the moonlight. He hid behind a boulder until the animal passed by 25 yards away.
Eric Shipton, Sen Tensing, and Michael Ward of the Everest Reconnaissance Expedition found a mile-long trail of freshly made humanlike footprints at 19,000 feet on the southwestern slope of Menlungtse, west of Mount Everest, on November 8, 1951. Shipton's crisp
photographs of the trail and one of these tracks next to an ice axe appeared in newspapers around the world. The footprint was 13 inches long and 8 inches wide, with an enormous big toe, a second toe nearly as large, and three smaller ones separated from the other two. However, Shipton and Ward are said to have admitted later that the trail had nothing to do with the photographed Yeti print and may have been made by an Ibex (Capra ibex) or Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus).
The 1954 Daily Mail's "Yeti Expedition" to Nepal found multiple sets of tracks in the snow in four locations. The team included mountaineer John A. Jackson, journalist Ralph Izzard, photographer Tom Stobart, zoologists Charles Stonor and Biswamoy Biswas, and naturalist Gerald Russell. On January 8, Stonor found some 10-inch-long, humanlike tracks at an altitude of 14,000 feet west of Namche Bazar on the other side of the Bhote Kosi River. On February 18, Jackson and photographer Stanley Jeeves discovered three-day-old bipedal tracks that were 10-11 inches long and 5-6 inches wide at an altitude of 18,500 feet on the Khumbu Glacier north of Pangboche. On February 27, Russell and Izzard found a three-day-old trail at 15,000 feet in the upper Dudh Kosi Valley that showed the clear imprint of a big toe and at least three smaller ones; they were 8-9 inches long and 4-5 inches wide, with a stride of 2 feet 3 inches. They followed the trail for 8 miles and found that the original track-maker had been joined by a second. A third trail was discovered a few days later and followed to a height of 18,000 feet. On March 8 and 9, Jackson and Stobart discovered several sets of fresh tracks at the head of the Chola Khola Valley, and on March 10, Sherpa Norbu collected a bag of Yeti droppings from around Lake Masumba that Russell analyzed to find a high percentage of Pika (Ochotona spp.) fur and bones. On March 14, Izzard and Russell found more Yeti tracks and droppings above the western fork of the Dudh Kosi.
Texas oilman Tom Slick sponsored three Himalayan expeditions in search of the snowman. In March and April 1957, Slick and Peter Byrne carried out a reconnaissance in the Arun Khola Valley, during which they discovered three sets of bipedal tracks, one of which Byrne and some Sherpas followed for 4 miles near the Chhoyang Khola Valley, Nepal. Slick took back a cast of a 10-inch print he had found in the mud; it was examined by Carleton Coon, George Agogino, and others in 1959.
The February-June 1958 Slick-Johnson Snowman Expedition was led by Gerald Russell and Peter and Bryan Byrne. Expedition member Norman G. Dyhrenfurth and Sherpa Ang Dawa discovered a cave in the upper Dudh Kosi Valley that Yetis apparently used for shelter; it yielded many droppings with pika bones and hair. Below the snow line, Russell found evidence for the small TEH-LMA. The expedition examined and photographed the Yeti scalp and mummified hand at the Pangboche Monastery.
Peter and Bryan Byrne's extended Slick-sponsored wanderings in Nepal throughout most of
1959 constituted the third expedition. Although they found some additional tracks and droppings, their biggest coup was smuggling a portion of the genuine Pangboche hand back to England in January with the help of American actor Jimmy Stewart.
Edmund Hillary's 1960 Himalayan Scientific and Mountaineering Expedition concluded that Yeti tracks were distortions of human footprints melted by the snow, that Yeti sightings by Sherpas were unreliable because the mountain porters did not make a distinction between the supernatural and the real worlds, and that all the scalps were probably fakes.
Mountaineer Don Whillans heard odd cries and saw a dark figure on a distant ridge while climbing Mount Annapurna, Nepal, in March 1970. The next day, he found its tracks at 13,000 feet and watched the Yeti again for twenty minutes through binoculars.
Edward W. Cronin Jr. and Howard Emery came across Yeti tracks on December 17, 1972, on a snowfield at 12,200 feet on Kongmaa Mountain in eastern Nepal. They closely resembled the prints found by Eric Shipton, were distinctly bipedal, and measured 9 inches long by 4.75 inches wide.
On July 11, 1974, a young Sherpa woman named Lhakpa Dolma was tending yaks near Tengboche, Nepal, when a Yeti grabbed her, dragged her to a nearby stream, then proceeded to attack and kill her yaks. Police arrived a few days later and found tracks.
John Hunt and his wife discovered a row of fresh, large, oval footprints near the Khumbu Glacier, Nepal, in November 1978. They were about 13.75 inches long by 6.75 inches wide.
John Whyte and John Allen found tracks, 8 inches long by 4 inches wide, in December 1979 on a mountain above the Hinku Valley, Nepal, after hearing a piercing scream that the Sherpas identified as a Yeti's.
A Polish Everest expedition, headed by geo-physicist Andrzej Zawada in March 1980, found tracks at 18,500 feet that measured 14 inches long by 7 inches wide.
In October 1984, Tim Macartney-Snape and Greg Mortimer found Yeti tracks near the summit of Mount Everest.
Yeti photographs taken by Tony Wooldridge in the Garhwal Himalaya of Uttar Pradesh State, India, on March 6, 1986, probably show a rock outcrop, though primatologist John Napier was impressed with the entire series.
Near Sri nigar, in Jammu and Kashmir State, India, a huge, gray-haired Yeti was seen after a loud noise was heard in the jungle on January
Chris Bonington and three other mountaineers came across a set of day-old tracks in April 1987 near the Menlung Glacier at 16,000 feet. They measured 12 inches by 3—4 inches and were 4 inches deep in the snow. Bonington spent ten weeks looking for Yeti evidence. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) film producer John Paul-Davidson briefly saw the dark shape of a creature watching him.
Biologist Arkady Tishkov of the Soviet-Chinese Glaciological Expedition observed a Yeti on the southeastern slope of Mount Xixa-bangma, Tibet, for nearly an hour on September 22, 1991. He took several photographs, but the distance was too far. The Yeti ran away when it saw Tishkov approaching.
Alleged Yeti hairs and claw marks were found in the hollow of a cedar tree in eastern Bhutan in early 2001 by British zoologist Rob McCall, who sent the hairs to the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine, where geneticist Bryan Sykes conducted a DNA analysis. He could not match them with human, bear, or any other known hair type. Possible explanations:
(1) The Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) has long black fur with a distinct, white V on its chest. It is found at altitudes up to 10,800 feet in heavily forested areas from Afghanistan to southern China. On its hind legs, it would stand about 5—6 feet. Its tracks in melting snow may look like a human's.
(2) One Himalayan variety of the Brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) has a pale, reddish-brown coat and stands no more than 6 feet 6 inches tall. It is found in Alpine meadows between the tree line and the snow line. Like the Asiatic black bear, it leaves tracks that are somewhat humanlike by putting its hind feet into the prints of its front feet. Both bears turn their feet inward, so that the big toes look like they are on the outside of the foot. This bear is known as dred mong in Tibet and as dreng mo in Pakistan. Tibetan naturalist Liu Wulin thinks that Yeti tracks are made by brown bears because they do not have arches; he also believes that brown bears have the ability to walk upright for longer stretches than is now suspected. This is also the explanation favored by Reinhold Messner. See Dre-Mo.
(3) The skin of an alleged Yeti killed by soldiers of the rajah of Mustang, Nepal, turned out to be that of a Sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), a shy, black, shaggy bear found in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Other false Yeti skins obtained by Desmond Doig in 1959 and 1960 belong to a bluish variety of the Brown bear (U. a. pruinosus) with blue-tinted brown hairs tipped with gold or gray, found in western China and Tibet.
(4) The tracks of a Snow leopard (Uncia uncia), distorted by the snow. The individual, undistorted prints are round.
(5) The running tracks of a Gray wolf (Canis lupus), distorted by the snow. The individual, undistorted prints are round.
(6) Tracks of any animal in the snow are subject to distortion by melting and sublimation, which can occur even at night if the atmosphere is dry and windy.
(7) Hindu ascetics (sadhus) on a spiritual search, usually followers of Shiva who often carry a trident, frequently travel to high elevations in search of enlightenment. Trained in the art of tumo, the mental control of body temperature, they can live at altitudes up to 15,000 feet. Some of their footprints, found unexpectedly, could be confused with Yeti tracks.
(8) The Himalayan variety of the Hanuman langur (Semnopithecus entellus) has a heavier gray coat and larger whiskers compared to lowland varieties and pale white head-hair surrounding a black face. The head and body are 2 feet 6 inches long. Its black tail, 3 feet 6 inches long, is held upright when walking on all fours. It is found at altitudes up to 13,000 feet in Bhutan, Nepal, India, and China. Oliver Jones thought that a Hanuman langur made the tracks Eric Shipton photographed in 1951 by putting all four of its feet down more or less at once in the same spot; however, no tail tracks were seen, and the prints showed distinct, alternate left-and-right features. The langur's foot is generally too small and narrow to explain Yeti tracks. However, a langur may account for Don Whillans's 1970 sighting.
(9) The Golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) has a thick, dark-brown coat and a human-looking face. The head and body is 2 feet 6 inches long, with a tail of roughly equal length. It lives in Tibet and the Sichuan, Shaanxi, Gansu, northern Guizhou, and Hubei Provinces of China at altitudes up to 11,000 feet.
(10) An unknown anthropoid ape—perhaps from the same lineage as the Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) or the fossil Sivapithecus, a fruit-eating Miocene ape that lived 9 million years ago in southern Asia—that has adapted to a terrestrial existence.
(11) A surviving or evolved Gigantopithecus, first suggested in 1952 by Bernard Heuvelmans. This huge-jawed Pleistocene ape lived as recently as 500,000 years ago in southern China and Vietnam, while a smaller species, G. giganteus, dates to 9-6 million years ago in the Siwalik Hills of India and Pakistan. However, even now the fossil evidence is so scanty (known only from jaw fragments and isolated teeth) that its appearance can only be conjectured. Its teeth are indisputably vegetarian, which contrasts with some of the Yeti's habits.
(12) A surviving species of Dryopithecus, suggested by Mark A. Hall and Loren Coleman. Dryopithecines were small- to moderate-sized primates that lived in Europe from Spain to Georgia 13-8 million years ago in the Late Miocene. Similar fossil teeth have been found in Gansu Province in China and in the Siwilak Hills in Pakistan, but no facial or postcranial bones have been recovered. A related Late Miocene ape found in southwestern China, Lufengpithecus lufengensis, is known from crushed skulls, mandibles, and teeth; its relationship to other apes is unclear, though it may have something to do with the Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) lineage. (13) An unknown species of large bear that often walks on two feet, although this corresponds more with the varieties known as Dzu-Teh.
Sources: Brian Houghton Hodgson, "On the Mammalia of Nepal," Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 1 (August 1832): 335-349; Laurence Austine Waddell, Among the Himalayas (London: Archibald Constable, 1899), pp. 223-224; Charles Howard-Bury, Mount Everest: The Reconnaissance, 1921 (London: Edward Arnold, 1922), p. 141; A. N. Tombazi, Account ofa Photographic Expedition to the Southern Glaciers ofKangchenjunga in the Sikkim Himalaya (Mumbai, India: Maxwell, 1925); Ernst Schäfer, Dach der Erde: Durch das Wunderland Hochtibet (Berlin: P. Parey, 1938); Frank S. Smythe, The Valley of Flowers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1938), pp. 144-153, 283-284; Eric Shipton, The Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, 1951 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1952), pp. 54-55, 127-128; Ralph Izzard, The Abominable Snowman Adventure (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1955); Charles Stonor, The Sherpa and the Snowman (London: Hollis and Carter, 1955); Tenzing Norgay and James Ramsey Ullman, Tiger of the Snows (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1955), pp. 73-77, 170, 195; Réné de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Where the Gods Are Mountains (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1956), pp. 151-161; Swami Pranavananda, "The Abominable Snowman," Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 54 (1957): 358-364; Bernard Heuvelmans, On the Track of Unknown Animals (New York: Hill and Wang, 1958), pp. 127-182; Tom Slick, "The Yeti Expedition," Explorers Journal 36 (December 1958): 5-8; Wladimir Tschernezky, "A Reconstruction of the Foot of the 'Abominable Snowman,'" Nature 186 (1960): 496-497; William C. Osman Hill,
"Abominable Snowmen: The Present Position," Oryx 6 (1961): 86-98; Edmund Hillary and Desmond Doig, High in the Thin Cold Air (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962); Odette Tchernine, The Yeti (London: Neville Spearman, 1970); John Napier, Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973); Jeffrey A. McNeely, Edward W. Cronin Jr., and Howard N. Emery, "The Yeti—Not a Snowman," Oryx 12 (1973): 65-73; John Hunt, "Unseen Yeti," Omni, October 1979, pp. 108-112; Edward W. Cronin Jr., The Arun: A Natural History ofthe World's Deepest Valley (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979); Anthony B. Wooldridge, "First Photos of the Yeti: An Encounter in North India," Cryptozoology 5 (1986): 63-76; "Yeti Was a Rock after All," Fortean Times 50 (Summer 1988): 8; Kesar Lall, Lore and Legend of the Yeti (Kathmandu: Pilgrims Book House, 1988); C. Reginald Cooke, Dust and Snow: Haifa Lifetime in India (Saffron Waldon, England: C. Reginald Cooke, 1988); Loren Coleman, Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1989); Mike Dash, "Shipton Sunk?" Fortean Times, no. 54 (Summer 1990): 18-20; Ram Kumar Panday, Yeti Accounts: Snowman's Mystery and Fantasy (Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1994); Arkady Tishkov, "Observation of a Yeti in the Himalayas of Tibet," Cryptozoology 12 (1996): 58-65; Mark A. Hall, The Yeti, Bigfoot and True Giants (Minneapolis, Minn.: Mark A. Hall, 1997), pp. 3-30; Edmund Hillary, View from the Summit (New York: Pocket Books, 1999), pp. 192-197; Ben S. Roesch, "Monkeying around the World," Cryptozoology Review 3, no. 3 (Winter-Spring 1999): 5-6; Reinhold Messner, My Quest for the Yeti (New York: St. Martin's, 2000); Mark Henderson, "'Yeti's Hair' Defies DNA Analysis," Times (London), April 2, 2001.
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