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Geographical Index > United States > Himalayan Region (International) > Article # 170

Media Article # 170


Monday, April 02, 2001

Mystery Beast: Could hairs found in Bhutan belong to the legendary Yeti?

By Andy Coghlan
NewScientist Online


Hairs found in a Bhutan forest could be those of the legendary Yeti, say makers of a TV documentary.

The cluster of hairs was found in a cedar tree by scientists who accompanied the documentary team. Sonam Dhendup, a local Yeti-hunter and guide, said the tree was the animal's lair.

On returning to Britain, the team handed the hair to Oxford geneticists for analysis.

"It's not a human, it's not a bear, nor anything else that we've so far been able to identify," says Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford.

"We've never encountered any DNA that we couldn't recognise before, but then, we weren't looking for the Yeti," says Sykes, the first geneticist to extract DNA from archaeological bone specimens.


Peculiar sample


Sykes says that all other hairs handed in by the Yeti-hunting team were easy to identify, turning out to be pigs, for example.

An earlier, skin sample from Bhutan reputed to be from a Yeti was shown by Sykes to be that of a bear. But he is mystified by the hair sample. "We don't know what it is; it's behaving most peculiarly," he says.

Rob McCall, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Oxford, reported finding scratch marks inside the cedar tree, which resembled claw rather than nail scratches.

McCall also discovered odd footprints just a couple of hours old. They revealed a short print with a narrow heel, plus toe pads rather than claws.

In Bhutan, locals call the Yeti the Migyur. One eyewitness, a former royal guard called Druk Sherrik, told the programme that it was an apelike creature about 3 metres tall. "The face was red, with a nose like a chimpanzee's," he says.


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