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Definition: Yeti from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

The Tibetan name for the ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN.

Summary Article: yeti
from Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained

The name given to the famous ‘abominable snowman’ said to inhabit the Himalayan mountain range, but which may describe more than one cryptid.

For well over a century, mountaineers scaling the Himalayan peaks that straddle the borders of southern Tibet and Nepal have reported seeing man-sized, shaggy-haired, ape-like creatures, sometimes walking on their hind legs and leaving footprints in the snow that are up to 33 centimetres (12 inches) long. Referred to as yetis by the Nepalese people, and also known as the ‘meh-the’ (‘man-beast’), in the West they have become known as abominable snowmen, and their identity remains one of the greatest cryptozoological mysteries of modern times.

According to many eyewitnesses the yeti appears to be some form of predominantly terrestrial, fruit-eating ape, standing about 2 metres (6.5 feet) tall when bipedal, with long reddish-brown fur, a very powerful well-muscled body, noticeably lengthy arms, a generally hairless face and a large head with a prominent crest running along the top of its dome-shaped skull. Some have suggested that it may be a type of ground-living orang-utan, spending much of its time in the rhododendron forests on the mountains’ lower reaches, only ascending to the snow-covered higher regions when food is scarce. However, some sceptics would dismiss all the reports of yetis as misinterpreted sightings of bears, while others would say that it is a non-existent creature of traditional local folklore.

Nevertheless, a number of alleged yeti relics have come to light over the years. Perhaps the most controversial are several reputed yeti scalps, displaying this cryptid’s familiar crest of hair. When examined, however, these items were found not to be scalps at all, but pieces of pelt taken from the shoulders of a species of mountain-dwelling goat-antelope called the serow. However, the lamas whose monasteries loaned these relics for examination responded that they were never claimed to be genuine yeti scalps, but merely costume items representing yeti scalps which are worn by participants taking the role of the yeti in ceremonies. More intriguing was the skeleton of an alleged yeti hand formerly owned by the Pangboche monastery in Nepal. When examined by Western scientists, the consensus was that it had come from an unknown species of primate, but, tragically, this vital piece of evidence was mysteriously stolen from the monastery in May 1991, and its current whereabouts remain unknown, though photographs of it still exist. Possibly most significant of all was a sample of supposed yeti hair collected in 2001 by British zoologist Rob McCall from a hollow cedar tree in Bhutan. When this hair sample’s DNA was analysed at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine, it could not be identified as that of any species of animal currently known to science.

The yeti is very commonly confused with a much bigger, flatter-headed mystery primate, usually reported from eastern Tibet, Sikkim, Bangladesh and other mountainous regions outside the Himalayas, and known locally as the dzu-teh (‘hulking beast’) or giant yeti. Unlike the true yeti, which often runs on all fours, the dzu-teh is habitually bipedal, and stands at least 2.7 metres (8.9 feet) tall. Its fur is said to be blackish-brown, and it apparently includes meat in its diet.

Some zoologists have speculated that the dzu-teh may be a surviving descendant of Gigantopithecus – a huge ape that is now known to have lived in Asia until at least 100,000 years ago. Others believe it to be a very large, possibly still-unknown species of bear. In 1953, a Tibetan lama called Chemed Rigdzin Dorje Lopu claimed to have examined two giant mummified dzu-tehs, which resembled enormous apes. One was housed in the monastery at Riwoche in Tibet’s Kham Province, the other at Sakya monastery. Many Tibetan relics and monasteries were destroyed following China’s annexation of Tibet a few years later, so whether these remarkable specimens still exist somewhere is unknown. See also man-beasts.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2007

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