Cryptozoology, being the study of unknown creatures, is a strange world of speculation, assumption, wild theorising and an enormous catalogue of potential candidates of interest all around the globe.
From the more mainstream researcher, there are innumerable species of bacteria and even insects to discover. After all, in written history we have only barely breached the surface of potential microbial life on earth; but to some, their quarry is a slight bit larger than a single celled organism.
The largest category of cryptozoology today is known as the classification of ABE’s, or anomalous biological entities, and within that category are some of the strangest things you’ve ever heard of. Among such famous company as Ogopogo and the Loch Ness Monster, are creatures as rare as the Montauk Monster and as elusive as the Chupacabra; but one creature who perhaps resides at the top of the proverbial food chain in the crypto-zoo, and who has captured the attention of the entire world, is simultaneously regarded as the least likely animal to exist, and the most believed in mega-fauna cryptid the world over.
I am of course referring to Bigfoot, though to be fair, that name is a Hollywood monstrosity and bears no resemblance to the global scope Bigfoot phenomenon.
As it stands today, there are more than two dozen different wild-man legends in as many countries around the world, including such places as Sumatra, Vietnam and Afghanistan. Each legend carries with it the cultural bias of the region from which it originates, and while there are some tangible differences, the similarities between the various legends is striking.
Perhaps the two most famous wild man legends are, predictably, the Sasquatch of North America and the Himalayan Yeti, each of which are known by several names on their own. But lesser known to the western world are the likes of the Orang Mawas of Malaysia, the Amomongos of the Philippines, Florida’s Skunk Ape and even the Woodwose of medieval Europe. Nearly all of the legendary accounts of these creatures culminate in the description of a man-beast, standing larger than a normal man, covered in hair to some degree and smelling of a horrid stench that almost defies explanation.
In spite of all the harm that Hollywood has done to the cause of finding and documenting wild men in various parts of the world, the legends carry on. Wild-man folk lore may be the most prevalent cryptozoological phenomenon on the planet. Even in the relatively confined continental space of the United States, there exists a wide range of wild-men theories and traditions. From the traditional north-western idea of Bigfoot or Sasquatch (as named by First Nations people of North America) to the Ohio Grassman and the Fouke Monster of Boggy Creek/Fouke, Arkansas, there is no shortage of material to investigate.
In fact, the existence of Sasquatch traditions of the First Nations people in both the US and Canada, along side Chinese, Japanese and other eastern European legends, dates back prior to written history and is often a root cultural meme to whichever region developed the legend.
In anthropological terms, there may be a lot to reconcile for these wild man theories, such as breeding populations, food sources, hibernation, dens and nesting, origin and, depending on the specific legend in question, physical capabilities (i.e. the Solomon Island giants). For many people, there is little doubt that there exists a creature, living in the wild parts of the world, who is half ape, half man and whose survival is dependent on our not being able to find them; but for an almost equal number of people there are just too many holes in the story.
In answer to this discrepancy, I have composed a comparative study of four such legends from four vastly different areas of the world. What is striking, is the fact that, even though these traditions, which in each case originate in cultural periods prior to any western popular influence, and are from divergent cultures in what could be called the four corners of the globe, they are remarkably similar in description and overall sentiment.
Barmanou – Afghanistan / Pakistan
Through my research I was somewhat surprised to find such a wild man legend coming from this area of the world; I’m not sure exactly why, I suppose it was a bias of my own relating to the on-going conflicts in this region, causing me to wrongly assume that cultures in that region would be prone to discount such ideas in favour of more traditionally religious explanations, but regardless of my own prejudices, there exists such a wild man in what was once known as ancient Mesopotamia.
Barmanou, also presented as Barmanu, as derived from the Sandskrit term Ban-Manus which is loosely translated as Man of the Forest, is a long held legend of a very tall and hairy man residing in the mountains of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Typical physical characeristics of Barmanou are strikingly similar to the North American Bigfoot, 8-10 feet in height, heavy set, and with brown/reddish fur (though the story is often told as though it wears animal skins instead of having its own fur), most surprising is the mention of a terrible smell associated to the creature, as is common to most other wild man legends.
A notable difference to this legend from most others is the inclusion of violent interaction with indigenous people. It is said, quite specifically, that the Barmanou is known to abduct village women in an attempt to mate with them, which may have been added to the original legend as a morality warning to young girls, given the patriarchal and dogmatic nature of the societies in question.
- Height- 8-10 feet
- Weight- Estimated at 400-600lbs
- Hair/Complexion- Thick fur, reddish to light brown, possibly augmented or replaced by cut and dried animal skins.
- Common Characteristics- Elusive and xenophobic, terrible smell like rotten eggs, violent if surprised or cornered
Fear Liath – Scotland
Of the many, many cryptozoological specimens coming from the storied and colourful country of Scotland, Fear Liath, or as it is commonly known, ‘The Greyman’ may be the most likely candidate for actual scientific discovery.
Originally coined the Am Fear Laith Mòr, or The Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, the Greyman is yet another example of a wild man legend offering seemingly similar yet unrelated description to the Western Bigfoot. It is said that Fear Laith haunts the summit and passes of Ben MacDhui, the highest peak of the Cairngorns and the second highest peak in Scotland. Tellings of the stories of the Greyman, as might be expected in Scotland, are varied, but a common theme runs through the legend. A creature, though often presented as a mere presence on the mountain, more than 10 feet tall, and covered in soft grey fur is said to be guarding the peak of Ben MacDhui. Climbers have often described a feeling of being watched, and several have told of direct encounters with the beast. Through this research I was not able to determine if there is a smell associated with Greyman, but it does appear that the Greyman legend is very similar to and possibly connected to the 13th century Woodwose legend of England and western Europe.
- Height- Over 10 fooot
- Weight- Unknown (estimated at more than 500lbs)
- Hair/Complexion- Soft grey fur covering it’s entire body, light skinned face and hands.
- Common Characteristics- known to make loud sounds and growl (i.e. bang sticks on nearby trees), said to give off an ominous feeling of forboding (almost psychicly)
Isnashi – South America
As tends to be the case with the verbal traditions of South America, many legends get distorted over time, but as with even the strangest stories, the Isnashi bears a resemblance to a creature many believe is real life neighbour of humanity.
Isnashi, also known as Mapinguary and Ucumar (roughly translated as the roaring animal or the fetid beast), is largely described as a giant sloth, though many reports contradict that description maintaining that it is bipedal and much more ape-like than a sloth. Various local legends exclaim that the beast is arrow and bullet proof, due to its thick and long magical fur, and some tell of the beast looking like a Cyclops with a gaping, fanged mouth in the middle of its belly.
One thing these stories always agree on is a distinct and terrible odour caused by the beast; warriors describe it as often sporting a cloud of swarming flies due to the pungent smell.
For those even remotely familiar with the thick and harsh jungle of South America, it isn’t altogether fantastic to think that there are several species of minor or even mega-fauna cryptids hiding in the rain forests, in fact some people think there are whole tribes of humans that live as yet undiscovered deep in the jungle.
- Height- Typically taller than 12 feet, but known to walk in a hunched over manner, so some estimates are as short as 7 feet.
- Weight- Estimated through footprints to be greater than 600lbs
- Hair/Complexion- Covered in coarse fur, grey-brown to drak brown, dark skinned
- Common Characteristics- Sloth like, slow moving unless frightened, foul smelling (though not necessarily like rotten eggs), fur is said to be magical and able to stop bullets/arrows, long arms, either bi-optical or cycloptical, and occassioanlly described as having a large, gaping and fanged mouth in its midesction.
Nahani Butte in the Canadian Northwest Territories is the reported home to Nuk-luk , translated from Inuit as ‘Man of the Bush’, and the only real difference between Nuk-luk and Sasquatch might be that local legend paints the Man of the Bush to be much more like a Neanderthal type creature than an ape, though it is purported to have long hair, a broad and stocky musculature and an odd smell. There is indication in early reports of Nuk-luk that it has adapted a culture of its own, wearing crude boots and using stone tools, but there is very little real information due to the extremely remote locale.
The earliest known report of Nuk-luk outside of Inuit culture was in 1964, but local Eskimo stories suggest that the creature(s) have been living in the area of Nahani Butte for more than 3000 years.
- Height- Between 6 and 8 feet, no taller than 10 foot
- Weight- Estimated via sightings at 300-400lbs
- Hair/Complexion- Fine but thick hair over it’s back and arms, medium light coloured skin
- Common Characteristics- Strong smell always associated with sightings, known to have adapted the use of loin cloths and other skins, as well as stone tools such as hammers and crude cutting implements
Though this is a comparison of only four out of more than 24 widely known examples, and even more lesser known wild-man traditions, there is already an easily recognised similarity between these descriptions. From a certain distance, it appears that there is plenty of evidence to conclude that all wild-man legends are derived from the same species of uknown early hominid, but on closer inspection the differences aren’t always easily reconciled.
Ultimately what we come up with here is a collection of sketchy, strange and obviously fairytale like stories about hairy bogeymen and missing link hominids around the world. And I admit that there need be no specific link between each case for there to be scientific merit in seeking the truth of each legend, but when one lines up all of the various wild man traditions, it’s difficult not to see a resemblance between them. Does that resemblance have a deeper meaning, or is it just a superficial connection? Some would say we may never know, but in the case of Sasquatch, I’m prone to believe we still have much to learn about the extent and variety of hominid life on earth.