Abominable Snowman

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The "abominable snowman" is also known as yeti or mighu (pl. m'ghira,) or miteh, and bongamanche ("man of the forest.")  In Mongolia, there is the almas.

In Garo, a language of Meghalaya, a small hilly Indian state on the north-eastern border with Bangladesh, it is called "mande burung."

Renewed interest is due to the fact that British scientists are currently analyzing some hairs, one of which has a root attached providing DNA for comparison with various species.

As you may know, several casts have been made of mysterious footprints, neither ape-like nor human, found in the high mountain terrain of Asia and the Americas.  In spring of 2001, a mysterious black hair was found in a cedar tree-root den in a bamboo jungle in Bhutan.   

Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine, one of the world’s leading experts on DNA analysis, and the first to extract genetic material from ancient bones said, "We found some DNA in it, but we don’t know what it is.  It’s not a human, not a bear nor anything else we have so far been able to identify. It’s a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn’t recognise before." ~ The Times, London        

April 6/01, Discovery News, "Scientists Claim Yeti DNA Evidence" by Rossella Lorenzi:  

British scientists in search of the yeti have found the best evidence yet for the existence of the legendary creature — a strand of hair, the DNA of which has proved impossible to identify. 

The tall, nocturnal, hairy creature who many say dwells around the forests and mountains of the Himalayas supposedly inhabits the hollow of a cedar tree in the Kingdom of Bhutan, on the eastern side of the Himalayas. 

Working on a documentary for Channel 4, the British expedition team found a long black hair on the tree bark after Sonam Dhendup, the King of Bhutan's official yeti hunter for the past 12 years, led them into a forest where locals claimed to have discovered a piece of a mysterious skin. 

The results of DNA analysis on the hair follicle have surprised even skeptical researchers. "It's not a human, it's not a bear, nor anything else that we've so far been able to identify," Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford, told New Scientist.  

In the documentary, one eyewitness — a former royal guard called Druk Sherrik — described his encounter with the Migyur, as the Buthanese call the yeti. "It was huge. It must have been nine feet tall. The arms were enormous and hairy. The face was red with a nose like a chimpanzee." In the past, traces of hair and footprints believed to be from the yeti were in fact from bears, langur monkeys, himalayan goats and pigs. But the British finding raises the
possibility that the sample belongs to an unknown species. 

"We have never encountered any DNA that we couldn't recognize before," said Sykes, a pioneer of DNA identification as the first genetist to extract DNA from archaeological bone specimens. 

Inside the cedar tree, Rob McCall, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Oxford, found scratch marks resembling claw. Nearby, he saw odd footprints just a couple of hours old. They showed a short print with a narrow heel and toe pads. 

"Yeti was an official protected species in the Kingdom of Nepal until the mid late 1950's, so someone obviously believes in them," says Lama Surya Das, one of the foremost American Lamas in the Buddhist tradition and author of Wisdom Tales from Tibet

"I've also seen scalps at monasteries high in the Himalayas, but I think they belonged to species of Himalayan red bear. I personally believe that the Yeti, like the Native American's legendary Sasquatch [Bigfoot] are mostly figments of the imagination." 

The Tengboche Incident

A report was filed in the valley around Tengboche monastery in Nepal stating that one evening, when a herder came to get the yaks, three were found cruelly slaughtered.  The local people attributed this to a mighu since it has the reputation of getting the animals to thrust their horns to earth, which leaves them vulnerable to disembowelment.  The yeti eats "the still living, still warm innards."  

We ventured to ask if the yeti still existed. Yes, The Abbot thought so, even though rarely seen. Is it a kind of human or animal we enquired further? That received the slightly shocked answer "it's is human of course!"

The yeti is not always harmful. One was believed to have helped the realized meditation master Lama Sangwa Dorje and is also mentioned in the autobiography of Thangtong Gyalpo to have helped him carry his luggage. But there are believed to be different kinds: the mhi-te, which is very horrible and dangerous, and the chuk-dre, slightly smaller and less ferocious version that only eats animals.

In the 1950s the famous climber Eric Shipton took photographs of yeti footprints which were published in England. Indeed yeti footprints are still occasionally sighted, but most spectacular is the yeti skull still kept in Kumjung Monastery. It looks like a shaggy rugby ball and not much like any known species of animal.

A few years ago there was also a yeti skull and a hand kept in the monastery in Pangboche. It was quite famous and all the tourists would pay a few rupees to have a look. This provided a small income that helped to support a community of nuns who lived there. Unfortunately it was stolen and that precious piece of evidence of the yeti lost forever. 

~ Shmitz and Cawley, Tengboche.com 

According to The Japan Times (Aug. 14, 2003) "The rare specimen, having been stolen once, is now kept under lock and key in a glass container. Reddish-brown in color, the scalp is about 20 cm high with a thick head of hair parted and brushed back from the center. Scientists, however, have questioned its authenticity."

Th[is] specimen, known as the Yeti of Khumjung . . . is in the monastery near Namche Bazar in Nepal, [and] was donated by a lama who had found it near Pangboche. 

In 2003, Yoshiteru Takahashi, a 60-year-old painter from Tokyo, set out with a team of six other climbers. With  support from a Japanese newspaper, for 2 months they staked out the flanks of 8,167-meter Dhaulagiri, which Takahashi had scaled in 1975 and 1982.

"I have climbed the Dhaulagiri (White Mountain) massif four times, and every time, I saw footprints of the yeti. In 1971, one of my expedition members saw one of these creatures.

"It looked like a gorilla and stood only 15 meters away from him, watching him, for about 40 seconds," Takahashi said. "It was about 150 cm tall and stood on its hind legs, like a man. Its head was covered with long, thick hair and he was certain it was not a bear or a monkey."

On another expedition to the same region in 1994, Takahashi discovered what he describes as a "bolt-hole," a natural cave that stretched back 5 meters into a rock face at 5,000 meters above sea level.

"Animals had definitely visited the cave and there were more of the footprints in the snow around the mouth of the cavern," he said. Unfortunately, his camera failed and he couldn't record his find.


An expedition to find the yeti in 1994 was prompted by the earlier discoveries of footprints that he describes as being similar to those of a human child and measuring up to 20 cm long. He also said he could smell the creatures' musty, animal odor.

"The footprints that I saw were similar to the one photographed by British explorers Eric Shipton and Michael Ward in 1951," Takahashi said.   {see below]


"The ones I found were smaller and thinner, more like a human foot, with an arch between the heel and the toes," Takahashi said. "There are no animals that leave that sort of track."

~<http://www.camp4.com/moreoffroute.php [article no longer available]


Researchers rarely find evidence, unlike local inhabitants who occasionally  meet with it while going about their daily routine.

In 1925, Greek photographer, N. A. Tombazi, a member of the British geological expedition in the Kachenjungma region, described a creature he saw moving across a Himalayan slope at an altitude of around 15,000 feet.  He estimated it was about a thousand feet away.

"Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to uproot or pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes," said Tombazi, "It showed up dark against the snow and, as far as I could make out wore no clothes." But before he could take a photograph, it disappeared.

When Tombazi left the team to check out the terrain, in the snow he found 15 footprints from one and a half to two feet apart, ". . .  similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide at the broadest part of the foot. The marks of five distinct toes and the instep were perfectly clear, but the trace of the heel was indistinct . . .  ."

Later, the local people said it was a "Kanchenjunga demon."

In 1938 Captain d'Auvergue, curator of Calcutta's Victoria Memorial, was traveling alone in the Himalayas when he became snow blind.  He related that, when he was almost dead from exposure, a nine-foot tall Yeti saved his life.

In 1951, in the Gauri Shankar pocket on the Menlung Glacier at an altitude of 20,000 feet, tracks were photographed by British mountaineers Eric Shipton and Michael Ward.  The prints were fresh when discovered, and the men  followed the trail for a mile before it disappeared onto the ice.  Each footprint was thirteen inches wide and up to eighteen inches long. 

Scientists who viewed the photographs could not positively identify the tracks, noting that depressions in snow get bigger as the snow melts in the sun.  Some felt the trail was that of a langur or a red bear, but neither animal is bipedal.

In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay found giant foot prints on their way to their record Everest ascent.

The London Daily Mail sent an expedition in 1954, and American oilmen, Tom Slick and F. Kirk Johnson, financed trips in 1957, '58, and '59.

In 1960, sponsored by World Book Encyclopedia, there was an expedition lead by Sir Edmund Hillary in association with Desmond Doig.  Well equipped with the finest photographic technology of the day and despite a ten-month stay, the group found nothing but a couple of blue bear skins and the scalp of a serow.

Doig concluded that the size and activity of the group had precluded any chance of a yeti encounter, since neither did they see a snow leopard.

Besides the 1971 sighting by a Takahashi climbing team member, British searchers reported a sighting in 1974.

After thirty years in the Himalayas, Desmond Doig believes reports of the mysterious creature refer to three distinct animals: First, what Sherpas call "dzu teh," the one that  attacks cattle and which is probably the Tibetan blue bear -- a creature known in the West only through a few skins, bones and a skull; the second is probably a type of gibbon that may live as far north as Nepal despite the fact its usual range is south of the Brahmaputra.  The third, known as "mih teh," is the mysterious hairy creature living as high up as 20,000 feet.

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