Bigfoot: Portrait of an Animal That May Not Exist

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on July 8th, 2016

People have been spotting “Sasquatches” or “Yetis” or “Abominable Snowmen” for centuries, but it’s only recently that man has made a study of what Americans usually call Bigfoot. Photo: Roberto A Sanchez

Sasquatch, Yeti, MoMo, Nape—the creature goes by different names around the world. A sort of pseudoscience has emerged to suss out the biology and behavior of this animal. Here’s what it says.

The names vary by region and by peoples, but the descriptions are similar enough: a biped with an ape-like gait, roughly the size of a large human, with lots and lots of fur.

People have been spotting Sasquatches or Yetis or Abominable Snowmen for centuries, and legends of these enormous primates populate the myths and fairytales of cultures on nearly every continent. It’s only recently, however, that man has made a study of what Americans usually call Bigfoot. In the decades after Robert Gimlin and Roger Patterson captured their famous footage, cryptozoologists—self-identified scientists who study unproven anthropomorphic animals—and ‘squatch hunters have carried out a Linnaean effort to classify the Bigfoots of the world and create a legitimate Bigfoot taxonomy. The result is a surprisingly clear profile of a creature that may or may not exist.

Note: Nearly all of the following is roundly dismissed by scholars and biologists. But that hasn’t stopped generations of Bigfoot experts from soldiering on.

The Man Who Created Bigfoot

1. Etymology

The term “Sasquatch” is an Anglicization of the Halkomelem Indian “sásq’ets,” a word tribes in the Pacific Northwest used to refer to mythological hairy giants. The English bastardization likely comes from J.W. Burns, an American teacher and early Sasquatch enthusiast who collected “wild men” stories from the local Chehalis tribe in Northern Washington.

2. Taxonomy

There is not one single Bigfoot frightening hikers and campers across the world. Instead, researchers say, the Sasquatch is likely one of several species of hominid that have secretly lived alongside man for centuries. Leaders in the field disagree on the number of species and exact classification of the animal, however.

3. Physical Characteristics and Behavior

The Bigfoot species best known to Americans, seen in the widely disseminated Patterson-Gimlin film, is what cryptozoologist Loren Coleman calls a Neo-Giant.

4. Distribution

The Sasquatch’s range extends from northern California up to British Columbia. The creature is known to live in the dense forests of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

5. Relationship with Humans

Sasquatches have evolved to evade humans, experts agree, and this trait combined combined with the animal’s constant movement has led to relatively few human interactions. The creatures are also very protective of their territory. “They’re extremely sensitive to human activity,” says Jevning. “If you disturb the area where they’re in feeding, they might not go back for decades.”

6. In Culture

For centuries, the Sasquatch inspired dread. Many cultures told stories of “wild men” that carried off children who ventured too far into the woods and abducted women from villages. The widespread nature of these fables, experts contend, prove the tales they are not coincidence. “Fairytales are echoes of long forgotten stories passed down from generation to generation,” Jevning says.


1. Says G.W. Gill, former president of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology: “Either the most complex and sophisticated hoax in the history of anthropology has continued for centuries without being exposed, or the most manlike and largest non-human primate on earth has managed to survive in parts of North America and remains undiscovered by modern science.”

2. The unregulated, unproven nature of the Bigfoot field has led to many clashes of personality. “One thing I do not like in the field is the jealousy,” says Coleman, who notes that theories are often discredited or tossed aside because people “wish they had a successful T.V. program.” Jevning, for his part, says that most self-proclaimed Bigfoot experts are “attention whores.”

3. Compiling a reliable description of Bigfoot is, for obvious reasons, a difficult endeavor. But in addition to the limited number of sightings, experts must also contend with a number of faked reports from attention-seekers. Enormous plaster Sasquatch foot molds can be bought on Ebay, for instance, so experts compare reports for discrepancies to find fakers. “Did time slow down or go missing? That’s not Bigfoot, that’s a UFO or whatever,” says Jevning.

4. Oregonian outdoors columnist Bill Monroe, who heard Bigfoot vocalizations on an elk hunt, found the calls more unnerving. “The deafening screaming, choking, belching moan from the ridge was chilling,” he wrote. “The kind of scream that sends mothers scurrying to find their children. The kind of scream no cougar or bear could ever squeeze from their throat… unless it was their last. Piercing, echoing, guttural; a single, horrible high-pitched-yet-throaty, inhuman, unnatural creation of Steven Spielberg that makes your skin crawl.”

5. Coleman says researchers have been reluctant to study Bigfoot mating patterns or behavior. “The notion that the Bigfoot is the closest unknown animal to us led to a sort of prudish attitude” in researchers, Coleman says, though that’s now changing. “People are more and more open about all kinds of cases—a Bigfoot in Pennsylvania having sex with a bull or cow, a report in Oregon where a couple Bigfoot females were found together masturbating. We don’t know how important all of this information will be later on. We really need to collect everything and not discriminate against any of it.”

6. The most recent, Jevning says, took place in Washington State: “Lady disappeared from a vision quest up there, [near the] Washougal River. They ate her. Wasn’t much left. Official story is that she wasn’t found; I know through my contacts the remains were found—a few fingers and toes and skull cap.”

7. In August of 1965, alternative magazines across the country published stories on what Coleman calls the quintessential example of humans encroaching on Bigfoot land. A 17 year-old named Christine Van Acker was driving through Monroe, Michigan with her mother when they ran into a giant hominid. According to reports, “a huge hairy hand” reached into the car window and punched Van Acker until she was unconscious.

This article is excerpted here on Cryptomundo. Read the entire article here on the Outside Online website.

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.

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