15 Hirsute Alternatives to Bigfoot

A creative imagining of an Orang Pendek, adapted from an original artwork by Tim Bertelink via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Earlier this month, the head of the University of New Mexico's Gallup campus was under fire for spending public money on a Bigfoot conference and expedition. Never mind that there are no fossils, no corpses, no DNA samples, nor any other hard evidence to suggest Bigfoot exists. Nearly 50 years after the famous Patterson–Gimlin footage was shot in northern California, people are still looking for hairy hulking apemen (fewer apewomen) hiding from us in the forests.

To the collective annoyance of skeptics, these stories aren’t likely to go away any time soon. Just take a look across the globe and back through history and you’ll find that lots of cultures have tales about shaggy, often smelly cryptids (animals of unproven existence). In their 2013 book Abominable Science, authors Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero acknowledge that Bigfoot myths might enjoy plausibility for a good evolutionary reason: There was a time when “footprints in the mud really did mean that another bipedal primate was lurking about.” Indeed, our human ancestors used to share forests with once-mysterious orangutans, gorillas, and, a very long time ago, the now-extinct primates like Gigantopithecus. Today, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, dominates the lore of North America. But here are 15 hirsute alternatives that show just how ubiquitous these mythical creatures are.


The screeching, putrid-smelling, campsite-wrecking Mogollon Monster is said to stalk Arizona’s Mogollon Rim. The first record of a sighting might come from a 1903 edition of The Arizona Republican, in which a man named I.W. Stevens claimed he saw a clawed apeman that was covered in gray hair and had a matted beard that reached to his knees. This beast carried a club, drank the blood of cougars and “screamed the wildest, most unearthly screech,” according to Stevens. He himself never claimed it was a monster; instead, he speculated it was someone held hostage and then abandoned by Native Americans. Several decades later, future cryptozoologist Don Davis claimed he had his own encounter with the Mogollon Monster during a 1940s Boy Scout camping trip (he was 13 at the time), noting that the creature had deep-set expressionless eyes, a square head, and a stench so bad Davis thought he had soiled his sleeping bag in terror.


Chemist J. Norman Collie believed in science. But still he was spooked by a shadowy presence while hiking alone on Scotland’s second highest peak, Ben MacDui. He told of the experience at the General Meeting of the Cairngorm Club in Aberdeen in 1925: “As I walked on and the eerie crunch, crunch, sounded behind me, I was seized with terror and took to my heels, staggering blindly among the boulders for four or five miles nearly down to Rothiemurchus Forest. Whatever you make of it, I do not know, but there is something very queer about the top of Ben MacDui and I will not go back there again by myself I know.” Collie wasn’t alone. Others have described similar run-ins with the yeti-like Grey Man, or Am Fear Liath Mòr. According to The Scotsman, these encounters seem more spiritual than physical, often accompanied by “uncontrolled terror, deep despair and huge negative energy.”


Apemen—and apewomen—come in all sizes. On the Indonesian island of Flores, “Ebu Gogo" means “the grandmother who eats anything.” These fabled creatures are said to be diminutive, hairy, and pot-bellied. Some believers have tried to link these cryptids to the hobbit-like human Homo floresiensis, whose bones were also found on Flores. But recent research suggests that species died out 50,000 years ago.


In Central Asia, Bigfoot takes the form of the Almas. This legendary apeman of the Altai Mountains is supposedly more humanoid in form than the North American Bigfoot, and some cryptozoologists have tried claiming that Almases might make up a holdout population of Neanderthals. Close encounters have not been limited to sightings of shadowy figures in the woods. In one troublingly racist episode from the 19th century, a woman of African descent named Zana was held captive in Russia by villagers who suspected she was an Almas. Worse, some scientists today are apparently still trying to prove she was not human.


Bigfoot’s best known (and perhaps most-sought) companion might be the Yeti, or "Abominable Snowman,” who roams the Himalayas. The Yeti has its origins in old Sherpa folklore, but it became the hulking shaggy apeman of pop culture after Western mountaineers started exploring Mount Everest in the 20th century and came back with sensational tales. In 1959, the American Embassy in Kathmandu released a memo notifying would-be Yeti hunters that they would have to apply for a permit with the Nepalese government and could photograph but not kill any Yeti they might find.


If you can take the witness sketches as accurate representations, the Yowie is sort of like a hairy luchador with a cone-shaped head and the posture of a gorilla. While alleged sightings are still reported in the wilds of Australia, the Yowie has its roots in Aboriginal legends, and European colonizers sometimes referred to the creature as the “Australian ape.” In 1882, a newspaper columnist in Sydney told of a sighting near Bateman's Bay in New South Wales: “I should think that if it were standing perfectly upright it would be nearly 5ft high. It was tailless and covered with very long black hair, which was of a dirty red or snuff-colour about the throat and breast…On the whole it was a most uncouth and repulsive looking creature, evidently possessed of prodigious strength, and one which I should not care to come to close quarters.”


Malay for “short man,” the Orang Pendek supposedly lives in the jungles of the island Sumatra. This ground-dwelling, pint-sized creature is said to have long arms and broad shoulders. It apparently lacks special powers—though it might throw rocks at you if it feels threatened.


During a lion-hunting expedition in Tanzania in the early 20th century, a man named William Hichens saw “mystery men-beasts” called Agogwe and lived to tell the tale. “They were like little men, about four feet high, walking upright, but clad in russet hair,” Hichens wrote. “The native hunter with me gaped in mingled fear and amazement. They were, he said, agogwe, the little furry men whom one does not see once in a lifetime.” The locals also said that if you put a gourd of beer and a bowl of food out in your garden, the Agogwe would take the food and do some hoeing and weeding at night in return, which was just too much for Hichens to buy. “That, I can well believe, is myth.”


Alaskans have a rather demonic version of Bigfoot: kushtakas. In the language of the Tlingit indigenous tribe of the Pacific Northwest, “kushtaka” means "land otter man.” Sure, otters are cute, but kushtakas have the not-so-cute ability to shape-shift, possess people, steal souls, and cause landslides. In The Strangest Story Ever Told, miner Harry D. Colp claimed that one of his companions was beset by a swarm of these sexless, sore-covered, monkey-like creatures during a prospecting trip in southeastern Alaska’s Thomas Bay in 1900. Undaunted by such accounts, actor Charlie Sheen reportedly took a private jet to Alaska to hunt kushtakas in 2013. He did not find any of the elusive creatures.


In the 1920s, Swiss scientist George Alexis Montandon claimed he had evidence of a human-sized ape that lurked in Venezuela. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the so-called De Loys’ Ape was revealed to be a hoax based on a manipulated photo of a common spider monkey.


People living around Mt. Hiba in northern Hiroshima during the 1970s claimed to see an ape-like man, shorter than the American Bigfoot and with a coat of reddish brown hair. The so-called Hibagon apparently created such a frenzy that police for a time escorted children to school. One grainy (and not very convincing) picture purports to show the Hibagon, but other than that, there’s no other evidence for this creature.


Besides Bigfoot, there are several other monsters said to terrorize North America. There’s Momo in Missouri, the Tuttle Bottoms Monster in Illinois, and of course the Ohio Grassman. According to one Bigfoot enthusiast website, the Grassman looks like an upright chesty gorilla who hangs out in cornfields and is known to kill dogs.


Roaming the wilds of the Florida Everglades is a man-beast covered in fur that is variously known as the Skunk Ape, Swamp Cabbage Man, or Stink Ape. It’s said to have the odor of rotten eggs—maybe because, as some claim, the Skunk Ape lives in muddy caves. The creature is occasionally drawn to campsites and cabins in search of food, but, according to other reports, the Skunk Ape might be a picky eater. Some say it’s been known to kill deer, tear open the carcass and only eat the liver.


In the Brazilian Amazon, people claim to have had encounters with the sluggish and clawed Mapinguary, a name sometimes translated as “the roaring animal” or “the fetid beast.” The legends about this creature could possibly be based on ancient memories of the elephant-sized giant ground sloth, Megatherium. This real-life sloth went extinct in South America a few thousand years ago, but fossil evidence shows that humans once hunted them.


Another apeman said to be hiding out in the rainforests of Brazil is the Maricoxi. A decade before he disappeared while looking for an ancient lost city in the Amazon, explorer Percy Fawcett claimed he saw several Maricoxi in Brazil in 1914. Fawcett described them as “enormous” grunting creatures which were hairy like dogs. In one encounter, he said that he used his gun to scare off one of these bow-and-arrow–armed apemen.

Keith Holmes/Hakai Institute
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Ice Age Human Footprints in Canada Reveal a Walk on the Beach Taken 13,000 Years Ago
Calvert Island
Calvert Island
Keith Holmes/Hakai Institute

The prehistoric mariners rowed their canoe into a secluded channel and then onto the island's sandy beach, just above the high-tide mark. One person got out of the boat and stood for a moment, facing northwest. Others, including another barefoot adult and child, followed the leader and walked toward higher, drier land.

Today, roughly 13,000 years later, their footprints have been preserved in a layer of sediment and confirmed to date from the last ice age. The discovery, on Calvert Island on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada, adds to the growing body of evidence that suggests ancient humans crossed from Asia to North America and traveled south along the Pacific shoreline.

"This finding provides evidence of the seafaring people who inhabited this area during the tail end of the last major ice age," said University of Victoria anthropologist Duncan McLaren, lead author of the new study in the journal PLOS One, in a statement.

Archaeologists on Calvert Island, British Columbia, Canada
Researchers Daryl Fedje (left) and Duncan McLaren (right) dig at the Calvert Island site.
Grant Callegari/Hakai Institute

Most anthropologists believe that early peoples migrated from Asia to North America across Beringia, the region where Russia's Chukchi Peninsula and Alaska face each other across the Bering Strait. Then the migrants took two possible routes. One popular theory, proposed in the 1930s, suggests people traveled south along an ice-free corridor that lay on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains where two colossal ice sheets split from one other. A more recent theory proposes that they sailed along a coastal route from Alaska to Washington State.

The coastal route lies within the territories of the Heiltsuk First Nation and Wuikinuxv First Nation. Their oral histories describe how the scattered islands between the open ocean and the edge of the ice sheet remained unglaciated. On these refuges, their ancestors subsisted on the abundant fish, shellfish, and marine mammals and likely used watercraft to travel between the islands. "Heiltsuk oral history talks about our people living in our territory before the ice age, and talks about the physical features of the landscape that our people witnessed change over time due to the ice, which influenced things like place names in our territory," William Housty, chair of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department board of directors, tells Mental Floss.

Archaeological evidence affirming the histories is scarce, in part because few researchers have focused on the area. In 2014, McLaren and colleagues from the University of Victoria and the Hakai Institute, along with representatives of the First Nations, began combing the beach at a Calvert Island site called EjTa-4 for sediments dating back to the late Pleistocene epoch (also known as the Ice Age, which ended 11,700 years ago). Back then, the sea level around Calvert Island was 6.5 to 10 feet lower than it is today, so the team concentrated on the intertidal zone. After probing several test holes, they found what appeared to be footprints near the base of a huge shell midden.

A 13,000-year-old human footprint on Calvert Island, British Columbia, Canada
A photo of Track #17 beside a digitally enhanced image of the same feature. Note the toe impressions and arch, which indicate that this is a right footprint.
Duncan McLaren

Over the next three field seasons, they continued to excavate a 6.5-foot-by-13-foot pit, removing strata of sand, pebbles, and organic matter before striking the layer of clay. "The site was below the high-tide water line, so we only had one day from the time we opened the last layer. When the high tide came up it would wash everything away," Jennifer Walkus, the research liaison between the Wuikinuxv Nation and Hakai Institute, tells Mental Floss. "We had an idea from the test pit the previous year that there might be footprints, so we knew that day was going to be busy. It was amazing as the last layer was pulled up and the measurements were taken."

In the substrate, the team found 29 individual human tracks, darkened by time, left by at least three different people—two adults and a child—based on the dimensions of the individual prints. "The fact that they were footprints was more and more obvious as the measurements came in and there were three lengths," Wallkus says. The orientation of some of the tracks at the ancient shoreline indicated that a group of people may have disembarked from a watercraft and walked northwest, toward higher ground, with their backs to the prevailing wind.

Researchers also collected samples of clay and fragments of shore pine from the sand underneath the prints. Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the pine bits, and the footprints, were between 13,317 and 12,633 years old.

"I can't speak for the Nation as a whole, but for me, it's a validation of the fact that we have been here for much longer than the previous narrative," Walkus says. "The fact that these footprints put people in the vicinity in the time of glacial recession underlines that our legends are grounded in living in our area over huge spans of time."

When William Housty, who was not present at the dig, heard of the discovery, "I immediately started to think about our first ancestors and the stories of their origin," he says. "I also thought that, once again, science [and] archeology have confirmed what our oral history has been telling us all along."

University of York
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
UK Archaeologists Have Found One of the World’s Oldest 'Crayons'
University of York
University of York

A prehistoric chunk of pigment found near an ancient lake in England may be one of the world's oldest crayons, Colossal reports. The small object made of red ochre was discovered during an archaeological excavation near Lake Flixton, a prehistoric lake that has since become a peat wetland but was once occupied by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Though it’s hard to date the crayon itself, it was found in a layer of earth dating back to the 7th millennium BCE, according to a recent study by University of York archaeologists.

Measuring less than an inch long, the piece of pigment is sharpened at one end, and its shape indicates that it was modified by a person and used extensively as a tool, not shaped by nature. The piece "looks exactly like a crayon," study author Andy Needham of the University of York said in a press release.

A pebble of red ochre thought to be a prehistoric crayon
University of York

The fine grooves and striations on the crayon suggest that it was used as a drawing tool, and indicate that it might have been rubbed against a granular surface (like a rock). Other research has found that ochre was collected and used widely by prehistoric hunter-gatherers like the ones who lived near Lake Flixton, bolstering the theory that it was used as a tool.

The researchers also found another, pebble-shaped fragment of red ochre at a nearby site, which was scraped so heavily that it became concave, indicating that it might have been used to extract the pigment as a red powder.

"The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art," Needham said. "It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork."

[h/t Colossal]


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