15 Mysterious Tidbits About Yetis
Skeptics and believers alike will be going ape over this tantalizing trivia.
1. The Nepalese and U.S. Governments Have Regulated Yeti Hunting
You’ve got three basic ground rules. A 1959 U.S. embassy memo states that American citizens need special permits before they can legally start tracking yetis inside Nepal. Also, while photographs and live captures are A-Okay, killing them is a big no-no, “except in an emergency arising out of self-defense.” Finally, any evidence that turns up (including live specimens) must be immediately handed over to the Nepalese authorities. Happy hunting!
2. Fossils Show That Giant Prehistoric Apes Once Did, In Fact, Roam Asia
Gigantopithecus is a genus of massive simians whose fossils have been found throughout China, India, and Vietnam. In their heyday, these guys would’ve made a silverback gorilla wet himself—certain species weighed an estimated 1,100 pounds and could stand over nine feet tall! Gigantopithecus likely died out around 300,000 years ago.
3. Yetis Are Usually Cited as Having Dark Hair
Yeti movies—yes, that’s a genre—almost always throw shaggy white primates at us. This contradicts the lion’s share of accounts provided by most so-called “eyewitnesses,” who overwhelmingly describe them as “brown or reddish-brown.”
4. A Newspaper Columnist Coined the Term “Abominable Snowman”
While trekking around Mt. Everest in 1921, British Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury spotted huge footprints that were roughly “three times” the size of a normal human’s. These, his guides announced, had been left by something called a “met-teh kangmi,” or “man-sized wild creature.”
Soon his story was picked up by Henry Newman of the Calcutta Statesman, who made a fateful gaffe. Instead of “met-teh kangmi,” Newman printed “metch kangmi,” which he mistranslated as meaning “abominable snowman.” The rest is history…
5. Yeti-Sightings Have Been Reported in Several Different Countries
China, India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Russia are all members of the international “we-might-have-yetis” club (t-shirts pending).
6. Jimmy Stewart’s Wife Smuggled a “Yeti Finger”
You read that correctly. She was married to the Jimmy Stewart—as in the star of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Here’s what went down: In 1959, adventurer Peter Byrne visited the Himalayan Pangboche Temple, where a severed yeti’s hand was said to reside. Carefully, he removed one of its fingers and replaced it with a human double he’d been given by British primatologist William Osman Hill for this precise purpose.
After making a clean getaway, Byrne’s team sent their digit back to the U.K. with some help from an unlikely partner. It turned out that Jimmy and Gloria Stewart were hunting in India at the time and would be stopping in London before heading home. Once Byrne paid them a visit, he convinced Gloria to slip the finger into her lingerie case, which no customs official would dare open.
Thanks to the Stewarts, the finger safely made its way to Hill, and it’s been stored at the Royal College of Surgeons ever since. Ultimately, however, Byrne’s work was in vain: Geneticists recently concluded that his prized steal was human after all.
7. The Cold War Raised the Stakes For Yeti Researchers
1958 saw American and Soviet teams both embarking on organized hunts for these beasts. “It is now an international race for the yeti” said cryptozoologist Gerald Russell, who led the U.S. campaign.
8. The Etymology of “Yeti” Is Very Uncertain
Most sources will tell you that “yeti” comes from “yeh-teh,” or “small, man-like animal.” Japanese researcher Makoto Nebuka isn’t one of them. Instead, he believes the word’s really descended from “meti,” which means “bear” in some dialects.
9. In 1994, One Tracker Claimed His Camera Froze Before He Could Snap a Definitive Yeti Photo
On the slopes of Dhaulagiri—Earth’s seventh-tallest mountain—“Yeti Project Japan” leader Yoshiteru Takahshi purportedly found a cave belonging to one of these legendary beasts. What a lousy time for an equipment malfunction…
10. Siberia’s Getting a Yeti Resort
Complete with a museum and hotel, this odd, Russian park is currently in development. Once open, visitors will be encouraged to capture the elusive apes—anyone who does so can expect the equivalent of over $30,500 from regional governor Aman Tuleyev.
11. Hybrid Bears Might (But Probably Don’t) Explain Away Yeti Tales
Polar and brown bears frequent the world’s yeti belt. Terrifyingly, these animals may also be interbreeding. Perhaps, as some suggest, travelers spent centuries mistaking their mixed offspring for massive humanoids. Yet, critics point out that crossed ursids haven’t actually been documented in Asia. Their North American counterparts, on the other hand, are a lot more open to “experimenting” with each other:
12. One Estimate Contends that Two Hundred Now Reside in Northern Russia
This number was put forth by Professor Valentin Sapunov of the Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg.
13. A Collection of Yeti Footprint Snapshots Were Just Sold for £5,500!
That’s $7,437.82, American mental_floss readers! Taken by mountain climber Eric Earle Shipton in 1951, these photos feature what appears to be several dozen footprints allegedly found 16,000-17,000 feet above sea level. The set was auctioned off last September.
14. Several Supposed Yeti Hair Specimens Have Been Debunked
Buzzkill alert! In 2013, human genetics expert Bryan Sykes exhaustively gathered 30 hair samples believed to have come from yetis, sasquatches, and other undiscovered apes. Subsequent DNA analyses revealed that every single strand had actually come from mundane, run-of-the-mill creatures like horses, bears, raccoons, and cows.
15. This Winter, Boston Got its Very Own Yeti
If Februarys like that last one become a regular occurrence, Bean Town might rechristen itself “Yetiville, USA.” Lately, the area’s been blessed with a local eccentric who calls him- or herself “The Boston Yeti.”
This mysterious Bay State hero currently boasts 8,000-plus Twitter followers and can often be seen roaming snowy streets or helping average citizens dig out their cars. “Snow storms are funny because a sense of camaraderie develops in the community,” the still-anonymous Yeti told ABC news. “For me, I wanted to lend a claw and do my part, too.”
All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated.