Yeti or Not, was the name of icon TV movie, which aired on Animal Planet in 2016 on the seemingly abiding mystery of the Yeti. “Seemingly abiding mystery” because despite considerable scientific research, questions about the existence of the Yeti refuse to subside. The recent tweeted claims of the Indian Army of recording footprints of the fabled Yeti caused a virtual social media frenzy. Ed Whelan wrote in Ancient Origins that some have expressed doubts while others have outright mocked the claims. “One wonders why then”, he points out, “when National Geographic produces documentaries and articles on the subject—even one article titled, ‘This Man Searched for the Yeti for 60 Years—and Found It’, there wasn’t a similar outburst”.
Isa Vaid, a writer who has studied many aspects of the unexplained and of historical and mythological enigmas, describes the Yeti, also known as the abominable snowman, as “a being which is associated with the eternal cold and snow of the Himalaya Mountains… Locals have included the Yeti in the mythology and folklore of the area. In this context, the being is also known as Meh-Teh. The Yeti became known to Westerners around the 19th century and it has fascinated people interested in cryptozoology ever since.”
Vaid explains further that at first, the Tibetan Lepcha people used to worship a hunting deity which was said to manifest itself as a creature of the snow. And in the Bon religion of the area, people used to believe the blood of the savage “mirgod” man was required for many magical rituals. This savage man was said to be a humanoid creature resembling a big monkey. Other descriptions state that the Yeti has its entire body covered with long dark hair. The existence of the Yeti has not been confirmed scientifically, yet there have been countless eye witnesses who report having seen this being or who have found its tracks in the snow. Himalayan locals continue to believe that these beings live in the frozen caves of the region.
The Yeti has long been known by different names in Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia and elsewhere in Central and East Asia. According to Wikipedia, “The names Yeti and Meh-Teh are commonly used by the people indigenous to the region, and are part of their history and mythology. Stories of the Yeti first emerged as a facet of Western popular culture in the 19th century.”
Most interestingly, Wikipedia mentions that way back in 1832, James Prinsep’s Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal published trekker B. H. Hodgson’s account of his experiences in northern Nepal. His local guides spotted a tall, bipedal creature covered with long dark hair, which seemed to flee in fear. Hodgson concluded it was an orangutan. An early record of reported footprints appeared in 1899 in Laurence Waddell’s “Among the Himalayas”. Sightings of Yeti footprints and the attendant controversies have continued in a steady stream over the years. Amongst a long eventful Yeti “history”, Wikipedia mentions that in 1960, Sir Edmund Hillary mounted an expedition to collect physical evidence of the Yeti. Hillary borrowed a supposed Yeti scalp from the Khumjung monastery then himself and Khumjo Chumbi—the village headman— brought the “scalp” back to London where a small sample was cut off for testing. It was concluded the sample “was probably made from the skin of an animal closely resembling the sampled specimen of Serow, but definitely not identical with it: possibly a local variety or race of the same species, or a different but closely related species.”
In 2003, Japanese researcher and mountaineer Dr Makoto Nebuka published the results of his twelve-year study, postulating that the word “Yeti” is a corruption of the word “meti”, a regional dialect term for a “bear”. Nebuka claimed that ethnic Tibetans fear and worship the bear as a supernatural being. Nebuka’s claims were met with almost immediate criticism.
In 2007, American television presenter Joshua Gates and his team—Destination Truth—reported finding a series of footprints in the Everest region of Nepal resembling descriptions of Yeti. Each of the footprints measured 33 cm (13 in) in length with five toes that measured a total of 25 cm (9.8 in) across. Casts were made of the prints for further research. The footprints were examined by Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University, who believed them to be too morphologically accurate to be fake or man-made, before changing his mind. Later in 2009, Gates made another investigation during which he discovered hair samples. A forensic analyst concluded that the hair contained an unknown DNA sequence.
In 2008, the BBC reported that hairs collected in the remote Garo Hills area of North-East India by Dipu Marak had been analyzed at Oxford Brookes University in the UK by primatologist Anna Nekaris and microscopy expert Jon Wells. These initial tests were inconclusive, and ape conservation expert Ian Redmond told the BBC that there was similarity between the cuticle pattern of these hairs and specimens collected by Edmund Hillary during Himalayan expeditions in the 1950s and donated to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and announced planned DNA analysis. This analysis has since revealed that the hair came from the Himalayan goral.
At a 2011 conference in Russia, participating scientists and enthusiasts declared having “95% evidence” of the Yeti’s existence. However, this claim was disputed later. In 2013, a call was put out by scientists from the universities of Oxford and Lausanne for people claiming to have samples from Yeti sorts of creatures. These samples were compared with those in GenBank, the international repository of gene sequences, and matched a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back to between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago. The result suggests that bears in these regions may have been taken to be Yeti.
One thing is certain. While locals such as the Tibetan Lepchas continue to nurture age old beliefs about the Yeti and Bon religious beliefs and other beliefs about the Yeti and its connection to another world are still alive, the Yeti is not generally regarded as a supernatural entity, unlike, for example, the Japanese yukionna. The yukionna possesses magic powers over the cold, can be very beautiful and moves by floating above the snow and unlike the Yeti, leaves no tracks.