Whether found living on inhospitable mountain tops, or in thick, dense temperate forests, stories of elusive ape men are common throughout many cultures around the world. In this post, we’ll look at four of the most common cryptids–Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, Sasquatch, and Bigfoot. How are these mythic animals similar? How are they different? And how did their stories originate?
The Differences Between a Yeti, Abominable Snowman, Sasquatch, and Bigfoot
Of the four beasts discussed in this post, the legend of the Yeti is the oldest. Stories of a man-like creature in the Himalayas even predate Buddhism (which is among the oldest major religions in the world).
The Lepcha people, who were indigenous to the Himalayan Mountain region, believed in a supernatural hunting god from the mountains, who was the ruler of all the forest’s creatures. It was from this legend that the term “Yeti” emerged, likely deriving from the Sherpa words yeh-teh (meaning “small, man-like animal”) or meti (meaning “bear”).
Various peoples of the Himalayas featured the Yeti in many cautionary folk tales, often depicting the creature as a bear-like or ape-like man who left large tracks in the snow, sometimes carrying a large stone as a weapon.
The term “Abominable Snowman” has much more recent origins, born out of a simple mistranslation. In 1921, a reporter named Henry Newman was interviewing participants in the British Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition for the Indian English-language newspaper, The Statesmen. These men told Newman stories of finding large footprints on the mountain, which their guides had said were left by Metoh-Kangmi.
Metoh translates to “man-bear” and Kangmi to “snowman”. But Newman messed up the first part of the word, misinterpreting metoh as “filthy”. Not liking that word, he decided “abominable” sounded better. And the Abominable Snowman nickname stuck.
Both the Yeti and Abominable Snowman originate in the Himalayas, and thus are often treated as different names for essentially the same legend.
Much like in Asia, tales of ape-like wild men can also be found in various indigenous communities throughout North America.
Throughout the Pacific Northwest, coastal Salish peoples told stories of an mysterious primate/man hybrid who lived in the forest. They called him Sésquac, a Halkomelem word meaning “wild man”. This is where we get the modern “Sasquatch”.
But Sésquac wasn’t the only such creature–many other tribes had their own local stories of ape-like men, or other forms of human-like giants. These stories differed greatly from tribe to tribe, and even from family to family. But the general idea was the same–that larger than life creatures exist out in the wild.
Today, the creature known as Sasquatch is more commonly called “Bigfoot”. The latter name came about in 1958, when a man named Gerald Crew found large, unidentifiable footprints near his bulldozer in Bluff Creek, California. He made a cast of the prints and was featured in the local paper. Locals began calling the enigmatic owner of the footprints “Big Foot”, which was stylized as “Bigfoot” by Humboldt Times editor Andrew Genzoli.
Bigfoot aka Sasquatch is commonly depicted as a large, muscular, shaggy primate that walks upright like a man. People who claim to have seen it describe Bigfoot as roughly 6–9 feet (1.8–2.7 m) tall, and covered black, dark brown, or dark reddish hair.
While there is no credible evidence to support the existence of Bigfoot, or any of these creatures, many modern-day believers suspect that all four belong to one species. Some even claim they are a type of Gigantopithecus, the polar bear-sized genus of ape native to southern Asia believed to have gone extinct 300,000 years ago.
Over the years, however, the majority of credible scientists have discounted the existence of these cryptids. The lack of any real evidence has led most to think that Yeti and Bigfoot exist merely as a result of folklore, misidentification, and hoax.
Okay, now that you can tell the differences between a Yeti, Abominable Snowman, Sasquatch, and Bigfoot, how about checking out a few other posts from the Sporcle Blog?
- What Is the Taos Hum?
- The Tunguska Event – Siberia’s Mystery Explosion
- The Bloop – An Underwater Mystery