Published On: Thu, Oct 12th, 2017

The Common Western Depiction of the Yeti is Wrong

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In the folklore of Nepal, the Yeti is an ape-like being that is taller than a human. It is said to live in the Himalayan region of Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. The people of that region use the names Yeti and Meh-Teh in their history and mythology surrounding this creature. Stories of the Yeti became known in Western popular culture in the 19th century, but they are much older than that.

Once a study was made on DNA from supposed Yeti hair samples found in the Himalayan Mountains – it matched the hair of a prehistoric bear from the Pleistocene. Due to the lack of conclusive evidence, the scientific community has generally called the Yeti a legend. But not everyone agrees. For example, some cryptozoological and local studies disagree with this view.

Other Names for a Yeti

There are many other names for the Yeti, such as: Miche (“man-bear”), Dzu-teh (“cattle bear”), Migoi or Mi-go (“wild man”), Bun Manchi (“jungle man”), Mirka (“wild man” – it is said that anyone who sees it dies or is killed) and Kang Admi (“Snow Man”).

Illustration of a Yeti by Philippe Semeria

Illustration of a Yeti by Philippe Semeria. ( CC BY 3.0 )

The name “Abominable Snowman” appeared in 1921 when Charles Howard-Bury led the British Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition. In his book, “ Mount Everest – The Reconnaissance ”, Howard-Bury included an account about finding footprints that “ were probably caused by a large ‘loping’ grey wolf, which in the soft snow formed double tracks rather like those of a bare-footed man ”. This was while crossing the Lhakpa La at 21,000 feet (6,400 meters). The 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” meaning “man-bear”, while “Kang-mi” meaning “snowman”).

The Yeti’s Early Identity

Before the 19th century, the Yeti was a part of the pre-Buddhist beliefs of several Himalayan people. The Lepcha people worshipped a “Glacier Being” as the God of the Hunt. In the Bon religion, the blood of the “mi rgod” or “wild man” used to be used in various mystical ceremonies. This being was described as an apelike creature that carried a large stone as a weapon and made a whistling “swoosh” sound.

Usually the Yeti is depicted as being white. This is wrong. Following the original description, the Yeti is said to be covered in brown, reddish, or black fur – according to various descriptions. The Yeti has been depicted alongside gods at local Buddhist monasteries. It is worshipped as a deity which people believe exists, even though they cannot always see it.

Drawing of what a Yeti could look like.

Drawing of what a Yeti could look like. ( Public Domain )

Possible Evidence for the Yeti’s Existence

In 1832, the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal published the account of B.H. Hodgson. In Nepal, his local guides saw a tall, bipedal creature with long dark hair which fled in fear. In the 20th century, the frequency of reports increased. In 1925, photographer N.A. Tombazi wrote that he saw a creature near Zemu Glacier at 15,000 feet (4,600 meters). He saw the creature from the distance for about a minute and he described it as follows:

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 ”.

After descending the mountains, Tombazi and his companions saw the creature’s footsteps. They were “ 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 the 1950s, Western interest in the Yeti peaked dramatically. In 1951, while attempting to scale Mount Everest, Eric Shipton took photos of a number of large prints in the snow. These photos have been heavily debated, but some consider them to be the best evidence of the existence of the Yeti.

Photograph of an alleged yeti footprint found by Michael Ward. Photograph was taken at Menlung glacier on the Everest expedition by Eric Shipton in 1951.

Photograph of an alleged yeti footprint found by Michael Ward. Photograph was taken at Menlung glacier on the Everest expedition by Eric Shipton in 1951. ( Public Domain )


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