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Are We Closing in on Bigfoot?
DNA evidence, amazing photos, increased sightings and new high-tech detection methods suggest that we may be close to discovering the truth about Bigfoot
More of this Feature
Part 2: Amazing Skunk Ape photos
Part 3: High-tech search

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"[Regarding the Skunk Ape photo], I found the interior of the mouth of this creature to be in favor of the photos' veracity."
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In early April, 2001, British scientists made a startling announcement. After examining the DNA in a strand of hair thought to come from a Yeti - the Asian cousin to America's Bigfoot - scientists were unable to identify it as coming from any known animal.

This astonishing discovery is the most recent peak of what has become a growing mountain of evidence that we share this planet with an as-yet undiscovered species - or perhaps several species - of bipedal primates. And whether they are a kind of ape or are more closely related to humans - or something in-between - is unknown. But this new scientific evidence combined with new detailed photos and an increasing number of compelling sightings holds the promise that we may be very close to solving the mystery.

The DNA Evidence
The great Himalayan mountain range lies on the border between India, Nepal and Tibet, which is now part of China. The existence of the Yeti has been known to the people of this region for centuries. The first reliable report of a sighting from a Westerner came in 1925 when N.A. Tombazi, a Greek photographer working as part of a British geological expedition, saw the creature from a distance of about 1,000 feet. Although he did not get a photo of the Yeti, he and other members of the expedition did find footprints. Over the years, many other stories of the Yeti surfaced, and in the West it became known popularly as "The Abominable Snowman." (For more on the history of Yeti sightings, see "Yeti: Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas".)

The long black strand of hair examined by the British scientists was found on the bark of cedar tree in the Kingdom of Bhutan, a small country on the eastern side of the Himalayas. The tall, hairy creature is believed by many locals to inhabit the forests and mountains of Bhutan, where it is called the Migyur. The British were led to this particular tree by Sonam Dhendup, the kingdom's official Yeti hunter. Locals had found a mysterious piece of skin in the hollow of the cedar tree, which they think the creature might have called home. Carefully examining the area, the British scientists found fresh footprints just a few hours old. Inside the tree, they noted claw-like scratch marks and found several strands of the hair.

Some of the hair was taken back to the UK for DNA testing. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine and one of the world's leading experts on DNA analysis examined the hair. "We found some DNA in it," he said, "but we don't know what it is. It's not a human, not a bear not anything else we have so far been able to identify. It's a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn't recognize before."

Several Bhutanese have actually seen the Yeti. Druk Sherrik, a former member of the country's royal guard, told the British expedition, "It was huge. It must have been nine feet tall. The arms were enormous and hairy. The face was red with a nose like a chimpanzee."

The Yeti has also been captured on video in the so-called Snow Walker footage. In 1996, two hikers making their way through the mountain snows of Nepal captured video of a hairy, upright walking creature trudging up the side of a hill. The video has yet to be proved or disproved.

But the DNA test has proved that there is an unknown creature out there. What kind of creature that hair belongs to is unknown, but when one considers it along with the footprints and the eyewitness sightings, the case for a previously unknown ape or hominid is strengthened. The DNA is likely to inspire new expeditions to find the Yeti.

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