Bryan Sykes: Yeti = Bear?

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on October 17th, 2013

New research finds ‘Bigfoot’ DNA matches rare bear

Discovery leads scientists to believe there could be a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas that has been mistaken for the mythical beast

New DNA research may have finally solved the mystery of the yeti. Tests on hair samples were found to have a genetic match with an ancient polar bear, with scientists believing there could be a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas that has been mistaken for the mythical beast.

Yetis, also known as the “Abominable Snowman” or “Bigfoot”, have been recorded for centuries in the Himalayas, with local people and mountaineers claiming to have come face-to-face with hairy, ape-like creatures.

Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at the Oxford University, set out to collect and test “yeti” hair samples to find out which species they came from. In particular he analysed hairs from two unknown animals, one found in the Western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles to the east.

After subjecting the hairs to the most advanced DNA tests available and comparing the results to other animals’ genomes stored on the GenBank database, Professor Sykes found that he had a 100 per cent match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back at least 40,000 years – and probably around 120,000 years – a time when the polar bear and closely related brown bear were separating as different species.

Professor Sykes believes that the most likely explanation is that the animals are hybrids – crosses between polar bears and brown bears. The species are closely related and are known to interbreed where their territories overlap.

The professor said: “This is an exciting and completely unexpected result that gave us all a surprise. There’s more work to be done on interpreting the results. I don’t think it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around the Himalayas.

“But we can speculate on what the possible explanation might be. It could mean there is a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas descended from the bear that was the ancestor of the polar bear. Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridisation between the brown bear and the descendent of the ancient polar bear.”

A photograph of a “yeti’ footprint, taken by British climber Eric Shipton at the base of Everest, sparked global mania after it was taken in 1951.

Legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who became the first man to climb Everest without oxygen, has studied yetis since he had a terrifying encounter with a mysterious creature in Tibet in 1986.

His own research backs up the Prof Sykes’ theory. He uncovered an image in a 300-year-old Tibetan manuscript of a “Chemo” – another local name for the yeti, with text alongside it which was translated to read: “The yeti is a variety of bear living in inhospitable mountainous areas.”

Prof Sykes added: “Bigfootologists and other enthusiasts seem to think that they’ve been rejected by science. Science doesn’t accept or reject anything, all it does is examine the evidence and that is what I’m doing.”

His investigations features in a new three-part Channel 4 documentary series, Bigfoot Files, which starts on Sunday.

A book by Prof Sykes about his research, The Yeti Enigma: A DNA Detective Story, is to be published next spring.

Source: The Independent


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.

13 Responses to “Bryan Sykes: Yeti = Bear?”

  1. Degnostik responds:

    When they say “a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas that has been mistaken for the mythical beast”, all I read is “mistaken”.

    Back in 2001, Sykes thoroughly examined some “yeti” hair and said NOT A BEAR:

    “We found some DNA in it, but we don’t know what it is. It’s not a human, not a bear nor anything else we have so far been able to identify. It’s a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn’t recognize before.”

    You can skip to 2.00:

  2. Robert Beach via Facebook responds:

    Does anyone know if this is going to air on BBC America, or any other way that those of us in the United States can see it ?

  3. PhotoExpert responds:

    Great, he has a DNA match for a hair sample that matches a prehistoric bear. Fantastic!

    Now to burst his bubble. Yes, in the US, bears are mistaken for Bigfoot sightings sometimes. And in the Himalayas, bears might be mistaken for Yetis. But the two types of sightings are not mutually exclusive. And just because one has analyzed and identified a bear hair sample, that does not mean the Yeti does not exist or that all Yeti sightings are bear sightings. Explain the human like footprints as having come from a still surviving prehistoric bear, and then maybe you have something.

    Until then, meh, not much of Yeti killing story for me. Don’t get me wrong, it would be cool if that bear existed but it does not put to rest Yeti sightings and unexplained hominid footprints in the snow.

    But congrats on matching a bear hair sample to a prehistoric bear.

  4. shmargin responds:

    Wouldn’t this just mean some of his samples are from a bear? Doesn’t seem like that proves anything about yeti, just proves that some one thought they had Bigfoot hair and didn’t.

  5. MR JOSHUA responds:

    All this proves is that the samples taken were from a species of bear. It does not prove there are no unknown primates in the region. The description of the Yeti also does not match the bear in any way, shape, or form other than the fact both animals are covered in hair. Why is my spider sense going off ???

    The course this Oxford study is taking is incredibly bizarre. All of a sudden they have solved the mystery of the Yeti as a bear ?? DNA or no DNA that is very presumptuous. I am also fairly sure that bear species interbreed often in the wild. We have such examples as recent as 2006 when a grizzly bred with a polar bear. So if I collected what I thought was a Sasquatch sample and it came back as bear that would determine Sasquatch is a bear ? Hmmmmmmmmm.

  6. Hapa responds:

    There are three types of yeti that are noted by the natives of the Himalayas: The Teh-Lma (the small type), the Meh-The (the traditional Yeti) and the Dzu-Teh (“Hulking thing”). The latter is said to have claws and at times walk on all fours…sounds like a Bear. the other varieties are definitely primate-like, but the Dzu-Teh is most likely a bear.

    The Fact that the DNA matches that of prehistoric Polar bears, which were slowly changing from Brown bears, is fascinating. Probably a population of brown bears in central Asia was on its way to becoming something akin to Polar Bears, closer to a natural bred race of Grizzlars or Prizzlies. The Giant Polar Bear, Ursus Maritimus Tyrannus, was in many ways like a Grizzlar. as recently as 11,000 years ago, Polar Bears had Brown bear molars, indistinguishable from those of real Brown bears. This is a very fascinating find, and we will have to wait to see if the findings stand the test of time, or if a body is produced…

  7. semillama responds:

    Read that carefully, folks. Sykes is not saying the Yeti is a bear; Messner is. What Sykes says is that he has evidence for a previously unknown subspecies of brown bear in the Himalayas, which is in itself a rather interesting finding cryptozoologically. So, no proof of a yeti as it is commonly envisioned, but proof of a cryptid – an undescribed bear subspecies in the Himalayas! I’ll take that as a win for the field.

  8. corrick responds:

    Hapa, semillama, my thanks for your interesting comments.

    This is amazing. And should one ever be caught, the differences in appearance and behavior from “normal” Himalayan brown bears might speak volumes about the Yeti legends. This is exciting stuff!

  9. Alamo responds:

    From a previous article here on Cryptomundo:

    “For the most part the samples he has tracked down for analysis have turned out to be known species such as humans, bears or apes; however two samples taken towards the end of his quest will “change our understanding of human history,” he says.”

    So looks as if there is more to come… and it doesn’t come from bears. All the bear DNA proves is that a large, unknown animal can survive in the area undiscovered by science… which would actually support the possible existence of a large unknown ape/ hominid.

  10. William responds:

    What I find ironic is Ketchum claims her study proves the sasquatch is a hybrid human, and now Sykes study shows that one possible scenario for a Yeti is a hybrid bear. Hybrids seem to be the big thing right now….

  11. Kopite responds:

    I think some posters are getting confused. Sykes is talking about the hair samples found in the HIMALAYAS. This particular episode is NOT about what he has discovered regarding the alleged sasquatch hairs he has analysed from North America. It’s a different topic.

  12. Alaric Bragg via Facebook responds:

    An undiscovered bear will still be a significant and awesome find.

  13. MattPriceTime responds:

    Yes some people are confused. This news doesn’t solve the yeti case but it offers a lot of vindication.

    We have DNA proof a bear species that either survived extinction or is a hybird species that has been living in the area is real. One of the things described as a yeti, was always believed to be a bear as posted above. This validates a large animal can survive there unknown to science.

    Now instead of people debunking that there’s nothing new to be found there it becomes “this bear is the source of the yeti stories” or “if the bear variety was real and survives, why can’t a smarter animal of the same size do it too”

    All in all this news really is great for cryptozoology. Let’s hope he has more to reveal.

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