A Possible Scientific Explanation For The Yeti

By Simon Griffin on Monday, November 18, 2013
footprints in snow and tree
“Just what I always wanted: my own little bunny rabbit. I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him.” —The Abominable Snowman, Looney Tunes

In A Nutshell

The yeti is one of the world’s most famous cryptids. Its existence has been the subject of controversy for generations, with explanations for alleged sightings ranging from an undiscovered species of ape or bear, to confusion and outright lies. Now, professor Bryan Sykes claims it may be a type bear thought to be long extinct.

The Whole Bushel

Whether you refer to it as a yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or the Abominable Snowman, everyone knows exactly who we’re talking about. Often depicted as a brutish, bipedal ape, belief in the yeti has hitherto relied primarily on alleged sightings instead of hard evidence. The greatest evidence for its existence is the infamous video taken in 1967. The one of something that looks suspiciously like a man in a gorilla suit walking nonchalantly into a forest. But to this day, cryptozoologists have retained the belief that Bigfoot exists. Well now, Bryan Sykes, a professor of genetics at Oxford University (a title that admittedly earns a little more respect than “cryptozoologist”) claims he may have made a break in the mystery.

Professor Sykes conducted the most thorough DNA tests possible on two separate hair samples presented to him as Bigfoot hair. The samples, found 1,285 kilometers (800 mi) apart, were compared to every recorded animal DNA sequence, and a complete match was found: an ancient polar bear that lived up to 120,000 years ago. Even more intriguing is the fact that the samples came 30 years apart, the most recent being collected by filmmakers in 2003, and the older from a creature that was shot 40 years ago (why that body wasn’t/can’t be examined is unclear however). They both matched the DNA sample collected from the ancient polar bear’s jaw: 100 percent.

So what does Professor Sykes have to say about his results? He believes there could potentially be an unrecorded creature that people have come to call the yeti. While dubious that the samples brought to him are the same species as the ancient polar bear, he does note that that bear lived during the time polar bears split from brown bears, and says that the creature could be hybrid of the two, which are known to interbreed when they come in contact, or alternatively, a descendant of the ancient bear itself.

While this is a far cry from solving the mystery of the yeti (if there even is one), it certainly is one of the more respectable theories out there. It’s hard evidence presented by a respectable scientist, compared to a suspicious-looking video of Bigfoot presented by a guy who just happened to be getting paid to make the video. Whatever it is, many believe that there is (or was, until very recently) something undiscovered living in the Himalayas, the birthplace of the Abominable Snowman rumors. While it may very well turn out to be a boring old hybrid, remember that the mountain gorilla wasn’t discovered until 1902, few people initially believed in the two-headed deer-rabbit that we now call a kangaroo, and that just a few months ago, we discovered a new mammal.

Show Me The Proof

The Independent: Has the Yeti mystery been solved?
CNN: Olinguito the newest rare mammal species discovery