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Hominology’s Early Scatology Studies

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 11th, 2009

Ivan T. Sanderson

In the midst of heated debates about evidence for unknown hairy hominoids, people often overlook the fact that almost half a century ago, in Ivan T. Sanderson’s 1961 book, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come To Life, he details studies of fecal material. In one specific section of the book (in Chapter 15, “Some Obnoxious Items”), Sanderson examines the cognate physical evidence, and engages in a discussion of the “scatological, or excrement” evidence.

Sanderson’s book is in public domain, and one of the reasons I wanted to see it republished in a fine hardbound edition (see here) was so this material would not be so easily forgotten in the consideration of unknown hairy hominoids (which Sanderson termed “ABSMs” throughout this book). Due to my attempt to retain Sanderson’s italics, his passage is in bold, below:


Specimens of excrement have been collected from various points in Nepal in the Himalayan area; allegedly from some points in eastern Eurasia (see Russian reports); and from the northern Californian area. Some specimens of the first and last have been most carefully analyzed in modern veterinary and medical laboratories and quite a deal of information about both their composition and the parasites in them collected. A lot can be learned about an individual animal from its excrement, as everybody knows from the common medical practice of stool examination. The study, as conducted scientifically, falls into two parts—first, that of the entire individual mass; second, that of its microscopic composition. Also, cultures are prepared from it, so that any contained organisms may be multiplied, examined, and identified. Also, the eggs of worms and other such comparatively large parasites are searched for and identified. All of these processes give us information about the animal that originated the specimen.

In the gross form the faeces alleged to be those of ABSMs, fall into two very clear-cut types—those from the Himalaya which are of large but not excessive man-size and are said to come from Meh-Teh and Teh-lma; and those of the Oh-Mahs from California. The only reliable examination of the former made in the field was made by Gerald Russell who had had many years of such field studies in Africa and the Orient while collecting mammals, reptiles, and amphibians for museums. He reported the form to be generally humanoid and the contents to be: “A quantity of pika (Ochotona) fur; a quantity of pika bones (approx, 20); one feather, probably from a partridge chick; some sections of grass, or other vegetable matter; one thorn; one large insect claw; three pika whiskers.” Later, he examined also what appeared to be Teh-lma droppings near the river where he had found those creatures to be eating giant frogs. These contained bones of that animal and vegetable and insect remains in about equal proportions. Analyses of other Meh-Teh faeces have been made and variously reported but most of these stress the occurrence in them of remains of the little Lagomorph, the Pika or Whistling Hare (Ochotona) . Further, Tom Slick was shown piles of the fresh entrails of these little animals on mountain screes where ABSM tracks were found. The locals asserted that the yetis hunted these little animals in their retreats between the loose stones, crushed them, partly ripped off their skins, tore out their entrails, as we might gut a fowl, and then ate the rest raw.

The Californian droppings are an altogether different matter, and I express myself this way advisedly. First, the individual piles of droppings are of enormous size, some

being, as the ruler indicates, over 2 feet long. This was not an accumulation, all its parts being obviously of the same age. [Porcupines sometimes create toilets that they visit regularly and add to for long periods.] Their gross form is, moreover, of two distinct kinds—masses of fair (man-sized) faeces, and droppings of equal volume but of positively enormous man-shaped individual faeces. Sometimes these latter have a most extraordinary ropelike formation as if produced by a double bowel with interlocking spiral twists. Other samples have not, however, shown this twisting.

This presents one of the most positive bits of evidence for the existence of an ABSM, whatever it may be. Just about the only thing that can not be manufactured—at least to fool a medical man or a veterinarian—is faeces. Then, there is no large mammal in North America that can or does produce such droppings. The only alternates are large Ungulates or the larger Carnivores. The droppings of all the former are all pellet-like—from Moose to the smallest deer [and the Moose, incidentally, is not and never has been found in the Washington-Oregon-California coastal ranges, nor even in the Cascade-Sierra-Nevada Ranges] while that of the larger cats [here, only possibly the Puma] are most distinctive and do not, of course, contain mostly vegetable matter, as these Oh-Mah faeces do. The only remaining animals are the bears. Black Bear (Euarctos) are found in that region, and it is just conceivably possible that a few Brown or Dish-faced Bears (Ursus) might still be lingering there. Both these animals are omnivorous, but, as may be seen from the photographs, their droppings do not look at all like those of the local alleged ABSMs. There is, however, a matter that I urge most strongly should be considered along with these discoveries.

It appears that in certain circumstances human beings may give rise to just such faeces as depicted here. I have information on two such eventualities. The first is of Alaskan Eskimos who go on an almost exclusive diet of whale blubber in lean winters. This causes not just chronic constipation but a major blockage of the lower bowel which may result in retention for many weeks or months. Then, the family group goes in search of certain willows, the astringent bark of which they strip and eat. This acts as a very violent purgative. As a result of this, they finally manage to eliminate but not without great pain, splitting of the anus, and a great loss of blood. The sorry process was most graphically described to me in a letter from a U.S. Government agent in Alaska.

The other example of this medical obscurity that I have on record is that of what are called in China “Shensi-Babies.” These are single, enormous, extremely solid faeces, eliminated by confirmed opium eaters, and sometimes by opium smokers, who have gone into prolonged periods of withdrawal due to narcotization; during which evacuation is ignored or actually physically impossible. Resultant faeces, when elimination does occur, are said to be, on occasion, as much as 2 feet long and 4 inches in diameter. It is just possible that some of the Amerindian peoples of our and Canada’s northwest might have been periodically or occasionally subjected to some influences, odd diet, or narcotic that could cause like phenomena.

Quite a number of faeces have now been examined in properly equipped laboratories, and a few proper reports have been issued. However, the findings have not been pursued to their logical conclusions, and there has been a marked lack of any desire to issue positive pronouncements on them. I have seen such reports on Oh-Mah samples from northern California; of alleged Meh-Tehs from Nepal; and of the Teh-lma from the lower valleys of that area. The first appear to have been almost exclusively of vegetable matter; the second were of mixed content with pika hairs and bones included; and the third were basically vegetable matter in essence but included bits of insects. In two cases [one, a set of examinations made in a medical laboratory in Oregon of Oh-Mah faeces; the other run for Bernard Heuvelmans in the Brussels Institute] the eggs of certain parasitic worms were found. In both cases these were identified as belonging to the group known as the Trichocephalidae, and specifically of the genus Trichuris. This family of Nematode worms includes the “Hook-Worms.” There is a species of Trichuris—vide: T. trichura—that is found in Man; other species come from a variety of other mammals. The size and proportionate measurements (width to length) of the eggs of each species are known and are quite distinctive. Those found in Brussels from the Teh-lma faeces appear to have conformed with the species that comes from sheep: those found in the Oh-Mah faeces were of three kinds. In a report on these, the specialist reporting stated that they could not be identified, however, due to their deterioration. Nonetheless, he got exact measurements of them and they could quite well have been identified, at least within certain limits. I am constrained to quote from this report:

“The largest egg is out of the range of human parasite ova, though Nematodes with such large eggs have been reported occasionally from various other primates.” From this, the writer concluded that “The specimen (of faeces) is not human … is most probably primate … is most probably from a sheep or other herbivore.”

This statement is equivalent to the British Museum’s now famous dictum (see Chapter 19) that “Now you can see for yourself that this Abominable Snowman footprint is that of a bear … or a monkey.” At this point I do refuse any longer to remain civil, though I still refrain from publishing the name of the expert who made the statement about the worm eggs. This is the kind of double-talk that one has to contend with, ad nauseam, in ABSMery; it is wholly unscientific; and, it is probably a deliberate evasion of the issue. The really alarming aspect of all this is that not a few samples of alleged ABSM droppings have now been collected and submitted to professional analytical laboratories but there does not appear to be any record of just what has been submitted to whom, what the latter found, or any proper carry-through of the analyses. There may be perfectly clear and valid evidence lying around in somebody’s files showing that these faeces were produced by an anthropoid, if not specifically by a Pongid or a Hominid. If there is, we ought to hear about it—and in print—for the very simple reason that gross excremental masses of the size and nature of those from which the samples were taken could not have been dropped by any known mammals in the areas where they were found. Since this is so, if they contain species of parasitic worms found only in Man, anthropoids, or other Primates, it can mean only one thing—namely, that such a type of man, anthropoid, or other Primate lives where said droppings were collected.


Further discussion about the scatological data occurs in Tom Slick: True Life Encounters in Cryptozoology (Fresno, CA: Craven Street-Linden Press, 2002), especially with regard to Heuvelmans’ statements on the Teh-lma findings.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

11 Responses to “Hominology’s Early Scatology Studies”

  1. Fhqwhgads responds:

    Well, that certainly convinces me not to go on a blubber-only diet (not that that was really appealing to begin with)! As for the possible opium connection, I’d guess that some kind of hippies would be more likely than American Indians, depending perhaps on when the samples were collected.

    Of course, if samples like this are still being collected today, it might be possible to extract some genetic information. Personally, I don’t see how that could work — clearly there would be DNA from the things that were eaten (hair and feathers!) and from the intestinal bacteria, and it seems likely these would swamp the signal of the species that produced the droppings. But experimentalists routinely make measurements that strike me as nearly miraculous, so it would be worth a try.

  2. DWA responds:

    A post that should be read by anybody who wonders what happens to all the evidence.

    There is a lot, and there are a number of stories of “authorities” treating it in just the way Sanderson describes. Or outright tossing it.

    I’d be hot under the collar too, Ivan. Sorry, man.

  3. tropicalwolf responds:

    Always love a look at any of Sanderson’s work. This book will always be the benchmark upon which others should be measured. (No offense Loren, yours and Mr Meldrums are still close seconds).

    On a similar note, I was lucky enough to find a collection of Fate Magazines from the 60s that featured dozens of his articles at a local antique store. Quite a nice find, even if no one else saw their value (.25 each).

  4. dawgvet responds:

    I guess this illustrates the point that when allowing outside specialists to analyze evidence, they should be blinded to prevent bias. In other words, “Here’s some crap. Tell me what animal made it.” rather than, “can you confirm if Bigfoot produced this?” When studying parasites, however, it helps to know what animal it came from to definitively identify the parasite species.

    There is one part that confuses me from this passage. He mentions Trichuris and then references “Hook-Worms.” One species of Trichuris is the whipworm found in dogs, but I do not know of any hookworms that belong to Trichuris, although I guess the taxonomy could have changed.

  5. norman-uk responds:

    The analyst use enzymes that target primate DNA and thus discriminate any others. Scat samples clearly will swarm with a mixture of DNA. I read about this from the interview that T. Disotell of NYU labs once explained how it worked.

    I speculate this could cause problems without knowing quite how. If Sasquatch was something completely new might its DNA be missed? Bearing in mind this lab. has not produced one positive cryptid result in 15 years of testing.

    Scat sample are a good source of DNA and I understand a scraping from the outside of the stool is made picking up cells from the gut lining. This was done successfully when samples were collected, at some risk in the wild, from some hugh primitive looking bull elephants thought to be mammoth like and compared with normal looking wild elephants. There was no significant difference apparently. I may be wrong but I believe those bulls, with hugh head bumps were in Bhutan. As DNA science understanding still has a long way to go I always look on these kind of results as somewhat interim and hope samples are kept for future consideration.

    One gets the impression that scat sample are a neglected resource and I feel that in this respect science is not delivering.

  6. Loren Coleman responds:

    I think “dawgvet” (as in canid veterinarian?) is on to something here. Ivan T. Sanderson, no doubt, was working in a time of shifting information and common usage when he employed the word “hook-worm.”

    Hookworm-like symptoms have been around since the time they were written about on papyrus papers of ancient Egypt (c. 1500 B.C.E.), so Sanderson probably had an old sense that “hookworms” were interwoven in all of these scatological results.

    “The hookworm is a parasitic nematode worm that lives in the small intestine of its host, which may be a mammal such as a dog, cat, or human. Two species of hookworms commonly infect humans, Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. Necator americanus predominates in the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, China, and Indonesia, while A. duodenale predominates in the Middle East, North Africa, India and (formerly) in southern Europe. Hookworms are thought to infect more than 600 million people worldwide. The A. braziliense and A. tubaeforme species infect cats, while A. caninum infects dogs. Uncinaria stenocephala infects both dogs and cats.” Source.

    “The roundworm (also nematodes) family Trichuridae includes the genus Trichuris, often referred to as whipworms.” Source.

    “Nematodes commonly parasitic on humans include ascarids (Ascaris), filarids, hookworms, pinworms (Enterobius) and whipworms (Trichuris trichiura).” Source.

    The relationships are still confusing to me here in 2009. Unfortunately for Sanderson in the 1950s, he didn’t even have Wikipedia around to help him out with a quick clarification checkup on hookworms, Trichuris, whipworms, and roundworms (no personal pun intended for all those times Sanderson was barefoot with the natives in the tropics).

  7. Fhqwhgads responds:

    norman-uk: Thanks for the explanation. I guess the good news is that both the PCR equipment and the computers needed to analyze specimens keep getting cheaper and better, so maybe the analysis of scat will indeed become more common. Bobbidy-bee bo du bobba dobba! (OK, not that kind of scat, but I couldn’t resist.)

    On the other hand, I know that the degradation of DNA is a real problem, and I wonder if the fecal environment might not accelerate the process. If so, dried potential bigfoot droppings might be less useful for DNA than they might at first seem. That wouldn’t make them worthless, but it would definitely be disappointing to any researcher.

  8. mystery_man responds:

    Norman-uk is absolutely correct. Scat indeed is a good source of DNA, with samples typically good enough to not only tell individual animals apart, but to even detect if there is any hybridization present in the individual.

    The study of scat is already a very valuable tool for scientists. For one, it holds an immense amount of information. You can discern not only the DNA of the animal, but also its diet, health condition, and as has been mentioned, the presence of any parasites or bacterial organsims.

    Studying scat is very useful with animals that are elusive, nocturnal, or otherwise difficult to accurately track through usual methods (sound like any cryptids we know of?). A study of the scat can yield a lot of information about these creatures without ever even seeing them. Conservation biologists find scat useful because they can keep track of rare animals that are shy or difficult to find and since DNA can be pretty accurately gathered from the samples, a rough idea can be formed of a given species’ population dynamics as well as the general health of the population.

    Some of the animals that have been studied through scat samples are tigers, pandas, and forest elephants. In all of these cases, a good amount of data on the population and the condition of these populations was gathered through this method.

    Studying scat is certainly an important tool for cryptozoology, and it is good to see it getting attention here.

  9. cryptidsrus responds:

    Good post, Loren and everybody else. And thanks DWA and Mystery_Man for your information on DNA in Scat. Didn’t think it contained a lot. Overall, good post. Gives the term “Fecal Freak” a new “twist,” I guess. (Joke, BTW) :).
    Once again, thanks for the information and discussion.

  10. norman-uk responds:


    Yes, these DNA tests must also be getting quicker and easier!

    Had some difficulty with scat and bobbiddy-bee etc. Thought it might be something to do with a bishy bishy barney bee (locally meant a bumble bee). I am told its music!

    I would have thought actually that DNA lasted quite well, and is not characterised by degradation but by longevity. I think the limit now is reckoned to be about 100,000 years. Fairly recently two developments have helped, one is that DNA is well protected within hair strands and dry samples are good and often better than wet (so there is hope for shunka warakin maybe)!

  11. norman-uk responds:


    Heres an even older one DNA 415 million years old, almost everlasting!

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