An Unsolved Mystery

What is a Bigfoot?

People describe bigfoots, yetis and similar creatures as large primates, something like a cross between a gorilla and a human. Tales of these animals go back hundreds of years in many different cultures. In various Native American tribes, they were called "windego," "yeahoh," "omah," "rugaru" and "boqs." In Asia, the yeti, or abominable snowman, is said to inhabit the snowy Himalayan mountains. For simplicity's sake, in this article we'll call this sort of creature by its most famous name, sasquatch. This name, derived from se'sxac, literally "wild men" in the Native American Salish language, is specifically used to describe a creature found in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and in southern Canada.

Patterson Gimlin Film

Bigfoot Sightings

Reported sightings of these sorts of creatures vary a good deal, but there are several details that pop up over and over again. In most cases, the eyewitnesses describe a very tall primate (ranging from 7 to 15 ft / 2 to 4.5 m) that walks on two legs. It stands upright like a human being but has a unique, loping gait. The creature is generally covered in long, reddish-brown fur and has a face that is a cross between a gorilla and a human being. Many eyewitnesses report a strong, unpleasant odor, but others say that the creature has no smell.

In some accounts, the animal makes strange grunting, gurgling or howling noises. Many believers say they have never seen the creature, but have heard bizarre noises in the woods that were nothing like the sounds made by any known animal. Believers have even recorded these noises in the northwestern United States and the Himalayan mountains. In the Himalayas, many more people report hearing the creature than seeing it.

According to some eyewitnesses, sasquatches are wary of human beings but highly curious about our activities. Many eyewitnesses report that they were not at all afraid of the creature, which is surprising when you imagine the spectacle of a 10-foot ape. These people say they were sure that the sasquatch meant them no harm, that it was a shy, benign animal. In the folklore of many Native American tribes, as well as the indigenous people of the Himalayas, the animal is said to be a peaceful, supernatural creature with intelligence and spiritual powers.

In many reports of sasquatches, the eyewitnesses say the creature observed them from a distance. Others heard noises and had the strange sensation that they were being watched. Most eyewitnesses say they don't have a clear impression of the creature's intelligence, but a few folks say they've seen multiple sasquatches communicating with each other. Most stories, however, describe a single sasquatch traveling through the woods alone.

These characteristics, which show up again and again in eyewitness reports, give us a basic idea of sasquatch physiology and behavior. Using this data, theorists have developed several ideas about where the creature might have come from. In the next section, we'll look at the most likely explanation of what this animal is if it does exist.