Who Is Yeti? Abominable Snowman Body Parts Revealed to be Mostly Bear, Some Dog

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A Himalayan brown bear seen in Pakistan. Abdullah Khan, Snow Leopard Foundation

Updated | The Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, is supposed to wander the Himalayas on two feet, staying mostly out of sight. But its legend has lived on, and people across the region have collected hair and bone samples alleged to belong to the mythical beast. A new genetic analysis of 9 of those samples published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that precisely zero of them belonged to a Yeti. The abominable snowman turns out to be a little bit dog and mostly bear.

The researchers gathered 9 samples—a tooth, a few paws, a bone, clumps of hair and the like—that Yeti believers from as far back as the 1930s have identified as belonging to the mythological being. Then, they analyzed DNA found in each sample. The results won't be what Yeti lovers were hoping for: The genetic analyses revealed that the tooth had actually belonged to a dog and the other samples to a range of local bears.

If you like the Yeti tale, that may come as bad news, but if you like bears there's a lot to learn from the study. That's because the scientists paired the alleged Yeti samples with poop samples collected from Himalayan brown bears living in Khunjerab National Park in northern Pakistan.

Himalayan brown bears are one of 44 different subspecies of brown bears, and they've even been fingered as possible Yeti sighting culprits before, but they aren't faring very well. And the genetic analysis the team was able to conduct on the "Yeti" samples and freshly collected bear poop samples showed that Himalayan brown bears split off from bears earlier than researchers had previously realized, about 650,000 years ago.

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One of the supposed Yeti samples, which was determined to actually belong to a Tibetan brown bear. Icon Films Ltd.

That timing lines up well with a period when glaciers covered what's now the Tibetan plateau—and the scientists think that means the species may have resulted from a small population of local bears being isolated from neighbors by the giant sheets of ice.

Lead author Charlotte Lindqvist, a bear scientist at the University at Buffalo, and her colleagues got their hands on these samples through Icon Film Company, which produced "Yeti or Not," a documentary that followed the efforts of former veterinarian Mark Evans to scientifically evaluate Yeti claims. (The company also funded the study.)

This isn't the first time scientists have taken a stab at the alleged remains of a Yeti—one previous study analyzed dozens of samples purportedly from Yeti and Bigfoot and identified them as species ranging from polar bears to cows, raccoons and horses.

Correction: This story has been updated with the correct number of samples believed to have belonged to Yetis.

Who Is Yeti? Abominable Snowman Body Parts Revealed to be Mostly Bear, Some Dog | Tech & Science