Basajaun: Spain’s Bigfoot

Posted by: Loren Coleman on June 27th, 2009

Scott Corrales contributes the following:

Inexplicata has written elsewhere about the simiots of Spain’s Catalunya and Upper Aragon – creatures that may well find their U.S. counterparts in our very own Bigfoot.

Today, Raul Nuñez of the IIEE sends along an interesting article on another supersized inhabitant of the Pyrenees — the towering Basajaun, a regular feature of Basque folklore. The article, written by Roberto Aretxaga and J.M. Satrústegui, first appeared in issue 134 of the defunct Karma-7 Magazine:

There exist creatures of considerable height, completely covered in hair, that wander the Pyrenees with incredible agillity, and even along non-Pyrenaic ares such as Zenauri, in the Basque Country, or the caves of Muskia and Mailuxe. They are collectively known as the Basajun, the lords of the forests.

According to journalist Roberto Artetxaga, the existence of this folkloric creature is deeply rooted in Basque tradition, and adds that its very name is suggestive, as the Euskera words baso (forest, wilderness) and Jaun (lord) render the composite of Basajaun, master of the forests or the wilderness.

The description is that of a creature endowed with extraordinary physical force, great agility and speed of travel, consierable height, quite taller than an average man, and fully anthropopmorhic features, covered in long hair and sometimes described as having long claws.

Many people believed that these creatures posessed the secret of cultivating wheat and that humans learned from them how to plant and harvest it. They are also considered as the first ironsmiths and millwrights, from whom humans learned the secret of the saw, the millwheel and the welding of metals. Basajaun is considered as the protective spirit of flocks, and up to only a few years ago, Basque shepherds held the belief that when animals caused their bells to ring at the same time, it meant that the Basajaun was near. Shepherds found this reassuring, safe in the knowledge that their herds would not be decimated by wolves.

Legend and reality have become interwoven, but J.M. Satrústegui points out in his book Mitos y Creencias that livestock farmers in Valcarlos and Ondorrola were fully convinced of this creature’s existence. He even managed to secure the testimony of an elder who told him that he would receive visits from the basajauns at his homestead, but never knew why. They had not visited him for a long time. Another eyewitness account mentions a sighting of a young Basajaun basking in the sun at the opening to the Mailuxe cave, and the added description of this creature as being blond.

Translation (c) 2009, S. Corrales, IHU. Special thanks to Raul Nuñez.

Wikipedia has only a short passage on the Basajaun:

In Basque mythology, the basajaun (plural: basajaunak) is a spirit dwelling in caves or in the woods who protects flocks of livestock and teaches skills such as agriculture and ironworking to humans.

The basajaun also exists in Aragonese mythology in the valleys of Tena, Ansó, and Broto under the names Basajarau, Bonjarau, or Bosnerau. Fifteenth-century carvings depicting the basajaunak can be seen in Burgos Cathedral and in the monastery of Santa María la Real in Najera.

Or maybe they look like this?

© Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe 1999, 2006; drawn © Harry Trumbore 1999, 2006, from The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates.

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.

9 Responses to “Basajaun: Spain’s Bigfoot”

  1. FrankGHaymes responds:

    What other type of “bigfoot” type creatures are there in Europe?

  2. stranger responds:

    Interesting article. I wonder how related the various wild men are? Would the Basajuan be a subspecies of Bigfoot or Yeti? Could they be entirely different species?

  3. Ceroill responds:

    Fascinating. Thanks for passing this along, Loren. If my memory isn’t faulty (and it may well be) some of those legends of primordial teaching seem to dovetail with native American legends. Also reminds me in a roundabout way of the old legend of Oannes (if I have the name right) who supposedly taught the early Mesopotamians how to do the essential things. Of course Oannes was a mer-person or something of similar description, which is why I say a roundabout way.

  4. shumway10973 responds:

    What if the Neanderthals are these beings? Would explain why some have said they weren’t at all human, yet others say the findings of tools in the cave there means that they are at least in the ancestry of humans.

  5. Miss G-force responds:

    This article is fascinating, thanks!

    I’ll reply to FrankGHaymes, as no one else has. Apart from the two hominoids mentioned in this article (simiots and Basajuan), which I had not heard of before, the only other hominoid that I know is reported to exist in Europe is the Almasty (also called Leshi, Chuchuuna, or various other regional names). This is the Old World version of Bigfoot. It is found across a very large area spanning from Eastern Europe, right across the vast expanses of Russia and adjoining Central Asian countries of the ex-Soviet bloc (Georgia, Kazakstan). (When I say ‘found’, I mean there are, in most areas, reported sightings by locals in modern and historic times, plus material evidence/sightings found by independent researchers). As in America, it is almost wholly reported in remote and forested or mountainous locations. However, there is a lot of this throughout the large geographic area I’ve described.

    As for Europe specifically, I have read reports indicating its presence in the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine. This seems to be the eastern frontier of the Almasty in Eurasia.

    The Almasty has been researched by small groups of researchers in much of these regions for the last 40 years or so. It seems that a fair amount is now known about their behaviour (eg. migration routes). However, much of this is published in Russian, and this information is only now starting to be translated into English and starting to be more accessible to Westerners.

    This is just a summary of what I have learnt from reading about this subject in the last few months. Hopefully some experts will correct/add to this, if I have missed out some regions/hominoids.

    Hope this helps.

  6. Miss G-force responds:

    Oops, I meant to say ‘the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine’ seem to be the western frontier of the Almasty in Eurasia (not eastern frontier). There is no eastern frontier as the Almasty is reported right across Russia, from ‘European Russia’ to the far east coast of Russia.

  7. sschaper responds:

    If they weren’t described as tall and hair-covered, I’d be thinking neandertals as well. The Spain is the last known area where they survived in a relatively unhybridized form. There are strong indications that that race invented melodic music and tamed most of the domestic animals we have today, which could have given rise to these culture-giver myths.

    What sort of tools were found in the caves? Aurignacian? Moustrian? something else?

  8. Miss G-force responds:

    Interesting comments, sschaper.

    The large size and hair covering do indeed make it difficult to associate the Basajuan (and Almasty/Bigfoot) with the Neanderthals. But, body size and level of hair are, I believe, characteristics that can change relatively quickly by evolution, given the right conditions (eg. Ice Age). We still have the same number of hair follicles as a chimpanzee, so presumably the Neanderthal did too. So, not impossible. I’d nevertheless still favour the idea that they are a separate species/sub-species.

    Aren’t the Basque, according to one theory, thought to be the descendents of the Cro-Magnon people, who had a different and far more sophisticated culture than the other Indo-European stone age tribes (eg. the Lascaux cave paintings vs. Venus figurines)?

    For instance, the Basque language is a linguistic anomaly. It is completely unrelated to the other European languages and it is suggested that it descends from the/an original cave-man language, as indicated by some Basque words. The word for ceiling in Basque is literally ‘roof of the cave’ and the word for knife is something like ‘sharp stone.’

    I don’t know where the Cro-Magnon culture came from, though I understand it is a bit of a mystery as it arrives very suddenly in the archeological record, I understand. One hypothesis that I’ve come across, is that it came from invading tribes from the lost island civilisation of Atlantis, west off the African coast (if true, it is likely to be a now submerged part of the volcanically active Mid-Atlantic ridge).

    The idea that the Basque/European culture (or parts of it) came from the Neanderthals seems rather hard to accept. I didn’t know that the Neanderthals had such a high level of culture – this doesn’t come over in the archeological record (does it?).

  9. icebear responds:

    A much clearer image of what Neanderthals looked like has emerged recently, and many people will be shocked, pretty much everything which anybody thought they knew about them is seriously wrong. The real Neanderthal does in fact appear to be a near perfect match for the Basajaun but it’s a folk memory and not a real creature, there’d be farm animals and people lying around dead all over the place.

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