December 8, 2006

Scientific Names for Bigfoot

Himalayan Yeti Abominable Snowman

Harry Trumbore’s drawing (above) of the Himalayan Yeti.

I wrote this paper about a decade ago, but just ran across it recently. Considering that Craig Woolheater’s discussion today is “Down Classification Avenue With Sasquatch,” it seemed appropriate to revisit my thoughts on this matter, more specifically, here today.

Scientific Names for Bigfoot

What is the scientific name for “Bigfoot”? This is a question with a few complex answers.

“Bigfoot,” of course, is the post-1958 name for those (seemingly) unknown hairy hominoids found in the Pacific Northwest of the USA with large human-like footprints and an upright stance. With the Canadian form “Sasquatch,” there is a longer history. First coined in the 1920s (according to John Green and Ivan Sanderson) by the teacher J. W. Burns who for years collected wild hairy giant stories from his Chehalis informants and friends. Burns apparently created “Sasquatch” to combine several similar Native Canadians’ names for these creatures.

Scientifically-inclined and folklorically-related studies are tending to use “Sasquatch” more often in recent years because it sounds more scholarly than “Bigfoot.” Nevertheless, both are popular names and are not formal scientific names. After an animal is formally and zoologically described, of course, it would go by whatever common name it has been called, popularly, but it shall still need a scientific name.

Various scientific names have been proposed for the animals known as Bigfoot and Sasquatch. One of the fullest discussions of this topic can be found in Grover Krantz’s Big Footprints (Boulder: Johnson, 1992), on pages 193-196.

What Krantz points out is simple. He notes that if he is right about his theories of what is represented by Bigfoot and what is evidenced in the fossil record, no new name is needed. What Krantz thinks and has formally written since 1986, is that “we in fact have footprints of Gigantopithecus blacki here in North America.”

If in fact it is a different species of this genus, then Krantz would name it Gigantopithecus canadensis. As Grover Krantz notes on page 194, canadensis “is a commonly used zoological name for species that are native to northern North America.” A couple examples are Cervus canadensis – elk, i.e. wapiti (after the Shawnee), and Ovis canadensis – bighorn sheep. Currently, canadensis has to be one of the main choices to use.

It appears to be out of the hands of suggestion now. Both Grover Krantz and Bernard Heuvelmans note that these are now formal assignments and proposals, and the zoological world will have to so acknowledge this if Bigfoot turns out to be a Gigantopithecus. If Bigfoot are a new genus entirely, Krantz would use Gigantanthropus the second name for Gigantopithecus that was once proposed by Franz Weidenreich in 1945, but obviously could not and was not used. As Krantz points out, it is still available for Bigfoot. This, of course, remains to be see, especially if an anthropologist or zoologist can make a good case that the genus discovered is so new and unrecognized that a completely new name should be given to one of these species.

Krantz further reviews a few of the possible choices if other findings prove true. Australopithecus robustus is to be used if these hominids are the Bigfoot; Australopithecus canadensis should be employed if a new species of the genus, Australopithecus. Based upon recent practice, the Australopithecus fossils are being routinely relabeled with their older name Paranthropus and some researchers now feel Bigfoot/Sasquatch are Paranthropus. As long ago as 1971, Gordon Strasenburgh noted that Bigfoot would be found to be related to Paranthropus robustus. He proposed the name Paranthropus eldurrelli to be specifically used for the Pacific Northwest Bigfoot.

Nevertheless, because of the standard rules of zoological nomenclature, by the mere fact that Krantz has formally published on this and assigned Bigfoot/Sasquatch some possible names, if they turn out to be any of the various genus or species he covered, they have to be given one of those names. Gordon Strasenburgh’s writings in the 1970s predate Krantz in the Paranthropus sphere, and Strasenburgh’s choice would be the one if Bigfoot turns out to be a Paranthropus sp.

Other scientific names for unknown hairy hominoids (which includes both cryptozoological hominids and anthropoids) have been formally proposed for and related to the fossil evidence. For example, the Orang Pendek has been proposed as modern representatives of Homo erectus by W. C. Osman Hill in 1945. The form of the Yeti that is a “youth-sized ape” has been assigned the name Dinanthropoides nivalis by Bernard Heuvelmans in 1958. The Neanderthaloid wildman with various names (e.g. Almas, Yeren, Migo) found throughout central Asia and allegedly evidenced by a dead body that surfaced and then disappeared in Minnesota have formally been called Homo pongoides or Homo neanderthalensis pongoides by Heuvelmans in 1969, and Heuvelmans & Porchnev in 1974. Beginning with university lectures in 1973, and publication of the theory in 1983 and 1984, I (Loren Coleman) formally proposed that the chimpanzee-like “Skunk Apes” and southern USA apes (which I called “Napes” and are not Bigfoot) should be assigned to the genus Dryopithecus, if found to have the correct affinities.

For those interested in the multi-levels of questions, some final thoughts on scientific names for “Bigfoot” can be found in the published works of Mark A. Hall (see especially The Yeti, Bigfoot & True Giants Minneapolis: MAHP, 1994). Hall writes that the answers are becoming clearer in some realms, namely that of the “Bigfoot/Sasquatch” perhaps being Paranthropus, the larger ones termed “True Giants” seeming to be a form of Gigantopithecus, and one variety of Yeti apparently being related to the Dryopithecus. But Hall has raised some intriguing questions he is still in the midst of answering, namely what of the other hominids that seem to be in the mix? Hall should get credit for bringing to our attention the finds from Greenland which anthropologists have labeled Homo gardarensis (see his Wonders, March 1995). If all the speculation about some of these so-called out-of-place more human-looking “Bigfoot-types” are factual, and they do not turn out to be merely variants on the classic Sasquatch, but instead we find out they are indeed Homo, we may have to dust off the name Homo gardarensis, as Mark Hall suggests.

There has been a history of already giving scientific names to these unknown hominoids. There probably will be other good ideas tomorrow. The answers are not all in, however, because we are just beginning to understand what questions to ask.

Copyright 1997 Loren Coleman

Orang Dalam

The Harry Trumbore illustration (above) is of the Orang Dalam (True Giant), and is taken from The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates, 2006.

Field Guide to Bigfoot

The cover illustration by Dick Klyver is of Homo floresiensis, a Proto-Pygmy.

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.

Filed under Abominable Snowman, Almas, Bigfoot, Books, Breaking News, Cryptomundo Exclusive, Cryptotourism, CryptoZoo News, Cryptozoologists, Cryptozoology, Extinct, Forensic Science, Homo floresiensis, New Species, Sasquatch, Windigo, Yeti, Yowie