Down Classification Avenue With Sasquatch

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on December 8th, 2006

With all of the talk here on Cryptomundo, and elsewhere, regarding Bigfoot being human or ape, Daryl Colyer of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center authored this piece on the classification of Bigfoot or Sasquatch.

It’s been said that debating the classification of an unlisted species such as the sasquatch may be akin to the proverbial putting the cart before the horse (when we don’t even have a cart yet). There’s probably a measure of truth to that but, for me at least, the subject of sasquatch nomenclature makes for some interesting discussion. As John Green has pointed out so eloquently time after time, if the sasquatch does exist, we actually do know quite a bit about it.

That being said, let’s walk this putative species down Classification Avenue and see where the sasquatch might end up (if what we think we may know is actually true and the sasquatch is more than just a hypothetical creature).

Starting at the broadest, most inclusive, level, the sasquatch would obviously be placed in Kingdom Animalia. In other words, in general terms, it is a multicellular creature sustained nutritionally by feeding on other life forms (plants, animals, etc.).

The next taxonomic level is Phylum, which would be Chordata (subphylum Vertebrata) for our species of interest. All we are saying here is that the sasquatch has to have at least a rudimentary skeleton with a spinal column and a tail or remnants of one (tailbone).

Few scientists would argue against placing the sasquatch within the Class Mammalia, the warm-blooded vertebrates with hair that feed their young on milk from milk-producing mammary glands.

The proper Order is most likely Primates. To this group belong the prosimians (lemurs and lorises), monkeys, apes, and humans. In general terms, primates are a group of mammals whose traits typically include mobile and opposable digits, nails instead of claws, binocular vision, and large brains relative to body size.

So far, so good. Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order… the familiar sequence memorized in grade school seems rather straightforward. Family is the next category.

Is the sasquatch in the Family Hominidae?

To gain membership into the Family Hominidae, the sasquatch must be a primate with erect posture, it must have stereoscopic vision, a large brain, and it must have a rounded skull and small teeth.

Historically, the Family Hominidae was made up exclusively of humans and their extinct ancestors. Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos (the great apes) were classified in Family Pongidae. However, due to recent genetic research and fossil evidence, chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and humans are all currently considered as members of the Family Hominidae. Also included would be the extinct human-ancestral hominids such as Homo habilis (about 1.6 million years ago) and Homo erectus (about two million years ago), as well as the more distant Australopithecines (about eight million years ago).

Sounds like it’s a safe bet to say that the sasquatch, if it really exists, is part of the Family Hominidae, given reported physical and behavioral characteristics and the available limited physical evidence.

Onward. We’re almost at the end of the road.

To what genus should the sasquatch be assigned? Is the sasquatch a member of the genus Homo?

This is where things get dicey and become even more controversial, if possible, and where some researcher hypotheses diverge. I mentioned earlier that some could argue that this is a debate about a horse and cart before we’ve even found a cart, but I think we can proceed a little farther.

Homo genus?

Species classified as Homo have especially large brains, in addition to the other features that characterize the Family Hominidae. Members of the genus include H. erectus, H. habilis, Homo sapiens, and Homo neanderthalensis. All are characterized by bipedal locomotion and are known for their ability to fashion precise tools. That’s key. The ability to fashion precise tools. In spite of thousands of reports and other accounts that have accumulated over the centuries, we have no physical evidence or any observational data regarding the use of tools by the sasquatch, other than in the most rudimentary sense.

Members of the genus Homo also used fire, but we do not have any reports of fire usage by the sasquatch. One of the most interesting reports from John Green’s Sasquatch: the Apes Among Us, dealt with a hunter who, from a hidden position, reportedly watched a sasquatch as it was fascinated by his campfire. The sasquatch took pieces of firewood and played with them, swirling the burning sticks through the air, like it had found some new toys. However, this account falls far short of indicating that the sasquatch has the capacity to use or make fire.

There are those who consider that the sasquatch is nothing more than another species of great ape, much like the gorilla or chimpanzee. This group includes most, if not all, of the scientists who have considered the question, including people like Grover Krantz, John Bindernagel, and Jeff Meldrum. Then there are those who consider that it may be human.

I think we will find that the sasquatch is closely related to both, but obviously quite unique. Simply put, we may be dealing with something that is in a sort of “no man’s land” regarding its place on the Tree of Life. Perhaps the moniker “ape-man” is more apropos than any of us have imagined.


University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Encyclopedia Britannica

Green, J. (1978).Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us. 492 pp. Hancock House Publishers Ltd., Saanichton, B.C., Canada

Daryl Colyer has interviewed hundreds of individuals with alleged sasquatch encounters. He spends most of his spare time interviewing witnesses and pursuing this mystery through field work in remote, wooded corners of Texas, Oklahoma and neighboring states. Formerly in USAF intelligence, Daryl’s investigations led him to have his own visual encounter with what he believes was a sasquatch. He now diligently and passionately works with others in the Texas Bigfoot Research Center to solve the enigmatic question of the sasquatch.

See also Loren Coleman’s discussion today titled Scientific Names For Bigfoot.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

14 Responses to “Down Classification Avenue With Sasquatch”

  1. Brindle responds:

    Very nice and informative! Thank you.

  2. mystery_man responds:

    I agree that it is fascinating to speculate about. I feel Sasquatch could even be in an entirely new genus. But I try to keep myself from getting too caught up on any one idea simply because, like Loren said, it is an unlisted species. We can make educated guesses based on what we know about it and other seemingly similar lifeforms, but in the end I feel it is best not to form assumptions about this creature in the absence of any universally accepted, tangible proof. For now, I’m keeping my mind open to an abundance of theories although some seem more plausible than others. Interesting article!

  3. mystery_man responds:

    I even stay mindful of the sobering fact that it may not exist at all.

  4. kittenz responds:

    “However, due to recent genetic research and fossil evidence, chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and humans are all currently considered as members of the Family Hominidae.”

    This is subject to strenuous debate among taxonomists. Some of them include the great apes in family Hominidae. Most others do not.

    My personal opinion is that apes and humans are sufficiently similar, physically, that they should be included in one family; however, since profound cultural and behavioral differences exist between humans and apes, that can be construed as a reason to separate them at the family level. I have no strong feelings about it myself; I recognize the similarities and I am perfectly willing to consider myself to belong to a species of ape. But I also recognize that many people would vehemently disagree with designating humans and apes as part of the same taxonomic family.

    Whether Bigfoot will be included in Hominidae, or in Pongidae, or indeed either family, will have to be decided when Bigfoot or their remains are finally “discovered” and investigated. If Bigfoot are primates, it’s entirely possible that they may be sufficiently different from both apes and people to warrant their own taxonomic family.

  5. kittenz responds:

    I think that the familial distinction may come down at last to the deliberate creation and use of fire. Hominids use fire; apes do not.

  6. Sergio responds:

    Well, the writer wrote that if this thing does exist, we do know a lot about it — I guess John Green said that. It makes perfect sense.

    I have to agree that it just does not seem that the genus would be Homo. But who knows what it will be? Maybe it will have its own genus. Interesting stuff for sure.

  7. Sergio responds:

    kittenz Says:

    “I think that the familial distinction may come down at last to the deliberate creation and use of fire. Hominids use fire; apes do not.”

    I think Colyer used that trait (fire) as one of the distinctions for Genus Homo.

  8. hiram responds:

    The classification of living things is an arbitrary and ever-changing and inexact science developed by humans to try to understand the world of nature and the history of this earth. As hard as we may try, we will never know everything that has transpired during the last 4.5 billion years.

    Classifications change to fit the evidence, not the other way around. If Bigfoot does not fall within our definition of the genus Homo because there is no evidence he is unable to fashion precise tools or use fire, that is simply a situation we will have to address.

    The Smithsonian Institution website notes that: “Until 1964, Australopithecus remains had been found in Africa, but remains of the oldest representative of the genus Homo had been recognized only in Asia. In that year, however, Louis Leakey, Phillip Tobias, and John Napier announced the new species Homo habilis, or “handy man”. They had to redefine the genus to accommodate this oldest form.”

    Whatever classification Bigfoot may be assigned is immaterial to the average person. The fact is, based on what we now know about them, Bigfoot is our nearest kin and has no use for us. The only thing he needs from us is to preserve his habitat.

  9. kittenz responds:

    “mystery_man Says:

    ‘I even stay mindful of the sobering fact that it may not exist at all'”

    I wonder about that a lot too. I think that people are seeing SOMETHING. There are too many credible sightings for all of them to just be dismissed. Whether the sightings are large, as yet scientifically undescrided primates- well, I just do not know what to think about that. I try to keep a skeptical but open mind, and hope that the question will be resolved one way or the other before long. Some of the circumstantial evidence is very compelling.

  10. hiram responds:

    Kittenz: Bravo! Hang in there! The truth draweth near. But, when the truth is made known to the public, mark my words, there will be heck to pay. You will not be pleased to learn what has been kept from you. Just wait for the facts as you are doing, be patient and then decide what you should do.

  11. mystery_man responds:

    Yes, Kittenz, that is what I meant. I keep an open yet skeptical mind. I believe there is an incredible amount of very compelling circumstantial evidence. I tend to lean on the side of something large and unknown to science lurking out there in the wilderness. Something that has caused all of the sightings, encounters, and so on. But until something concrete is found and it is absolutely classified by science, I’m always going to have that nagging wisp of doubt at the back of my mind. I hope if that evidence exists, it will become known sometime in my lifetime.

  12. bibliophile responds:

    It is my personal belief that Bigfoot or Sasquatch or, my personal favourite, ‘squatch, is a descendant of Gigantopithecus. I’m sure this is theory is held by many many others, as Gigantopithecus is REAL, they’ve found the fossils. It lived in Asia, most probably around the time of the Bering Land Bridge connecting the Asian continent with the North American, yes? Isn’t it possible then, that Gigantopithecus crossed the land bridge as the early forebears of what was to become our Native Americans did? It could also be possible that there have been some small alterations in physiology since that time, but I believe ‘squatch to be a descendant, still living among us. My question is, to what classification is Gigantopithecus attributed? It could be that ‘squatch could fall into the same classification.
    -First Post-
    -Aaron J. Howell-

  13. obastide responds:

    Read John Bindernagel’s book North America’s Great Ape: The Sasquatch. It makes a compelling, pretty much unassailable case for the creature being an ape. He gives example after example of Sasquatch behaviors corresponding with ape behaviors. If Sasquatch is descended from Gigantopithecus, which certainly makes sense, it might not be our closest living relative, given that a family branch that would lead to something like Giganto would have to diverge pretty early, (but then again, it might). In any case, it would represent an extraordinary example of parallel evolution to us: morphology of feet and hands, and the “human” look of the face that has been commented on so often. Personally, for me the doubt about the creatures realness, is a thing of the past. I have a great- grandfather who had an encounter, and the growing amount of physical evidence, compared to many other ‘cryptids’, is unambiguous. What hoaxer could leave miles long fake tracks with dermal ridges, moving toes, 4-5 foot strides,and impressions in the soil indicating a 700 pound plus weight? What hoaxer could create scat samples with bacteria in them which is found elsewhere only in Asian peoples and Native Americans? People don’t make this stuff up.

  14. sasdave responds:

    So let me get this straight. Science has possible names for something it doesn’t believe exists. Throughout history; bodies, bones, hair, footprints and sightings have shown these creatures differences and that they do exist. No discredit to those that believe in science; but, these creatures have their own name as scientists’ wouldn’t be able to handle the real truth regarding the Ground Burrowers. They are not apes or humans they are a distinct species with many differences like humans. Science is like a stupid old man, short sited and only believes in itself and labels things it knows not of.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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