Most mainstream scientists and experts consider current evidence of the yeti's existence to be unpersuasive, and the result of hoaxes, legend, or misidentification of mundane creatures. Still, the yeti remains one of the most famous creatures in cryptozoology.
Certain physical evidence, however, such as tracks and nests have suggested to some that yeti is an unknown primate, a remnant hominid, or a type of bear.
The term yeti is often used to describe a number of very different reported creatures:
- A large ape-like biped (that some suggest could be Gigantopithecus blacki)
- Human-sized bipedal apes (the Alma and the Chinese wildman)
- Dwarf-like creatures (such as the Orang Pendek).
The term is also often used to refer to reported ape-like creatures that fit any of these descriptions: for example, the fear liath may be referred to as the "Scottish yeti". The yeti is sometimes referred to as the "abominable snowman". This name was popularized by the press after a reporter related a mistranslation of a Nepali name for the yeti. Migoi is another name for such a creature.
For hundreds of years, natives in the Himalays have been telling stories about a humanoid monster that wanders around the mountain range. However, occasional reports of an ape-like creature in the Himalayas only began filtering to the west in the 1800s, mainly by British explorers .
In 1832, Journal of the Asiatic society of Bengal published the account of B. H. Hodgson, who wrote that while trekking in northern Nepal, his native guides spotted a tall, bipedal creature covered with long dark hair, then fled in fear. Hodgson did not see the creature, but concluded it was an orangutan.
Perhaps the first formal record of reported yeti footprints was in 1889's Among the Himalayas, by L.A. Wadell. Waddell reports his native guides described the large apelike creature that left the prints; he concluded the prints were a bear's. Waddel heard stories of bipedal, apelike creatures, but wrote that of the many witnesses he questioned, none "could ever give me an authentic case. On the most superficial investigation it always resolved into something that somebody had heard of."
The frequency of reports increased in the early 20th century, when Westerners began making determined attempts to climb the many mountains in the area and sometimes reported seeing odd creatures or strange tracks .
Also notable was Lieutenant Colonel C.K. Howard-Bury, inadvertently responsible for coining the term "abominable snowman" While leading a group on Mount Everest in 1921, Howard-Bury's expedition discovered many footprints at about 20,000 feet in altitude. Howard-Bury related his account to a reporter for the Calcutta Statesman, however, the reporter made an error: the sherpas had said "meh-teh" (roughly, "manlike thing that is not a man"), but the reporter wrote "metoh-kagmi", which translates, roughly, to "abominable snowman".
In 1925, N.A. Tombazi, a photographer (and, incidentally, a member of the Royal Geographical Society) saw a creature at about 15,000 feet in altitude, near Zemu Glacier. Tombazi later wrote that he observed the creature from about 200 or 300 yards' distance, for about one 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 took 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."
In 1942, after escaping from a Siberian prison, Sławomir Rawicz and his companions reported seeing two large, apelike creatures while crossing the Himalayas. They claim to have observed the creatures for several hours from a distance of about 100 m (300 feet). However, critics have questioned the accuracy (and even the reality) of Rawicz's escape narrative.
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 meters (20,000 feet) above sea level. These photos have been subject to intense study and debate: Some argue they are the best evidence of Yeti's reality; others disagree, and think the prints are a mundane creature's, distorted and enlarged by the melting snow.
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest. Hillary would later discount Yeti reports as unreliable.
Beginning in 1957, Tom Slick, an American who had made a fortune in oil, funded a few missions to investigate yeti reports. In 1959, feces reportedly from a yeti were collected by Slick's expedition. Analysis found a parasite but could not classify it. Bernard Heuvelmans wrote that "Since each animal has its own parasites, this indicated that the host animal is equally an unknown animal."
In 1959, actor Jimmy Stewart, while visiting India, reportedly smuggled the remains of a supposed yeti, the so-called Pangboche Hand, by hiding them in his luggage when he flew from India to London.
In 1970, British mountaineer Don Whillans says he saw a creature while scaling Annapurna. While scouting for a campsite, Whillans heard some odd cries. His sherpa guide told him the sound was a yeti's call. That night, reported Whillans, he saw a dark shape moving near his camp. The next day, Whillans observed a few human like footprints in the snow, and that evening, he asserted that with binoculars, he watched a bipedal, ape-like creature for about 20 minutes as it apparently searched for food not far from his camp.
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