As a matter of fact, doing a little more research proves that the drawing is an excerpt from a Russian publication describing the Yeti sighting described in The Long Walk, after a sketch by S. Rawicz
And in this case the creatures were supposed to have been something like eight feet tall, the one a few inches shorter than the other.
Now while many people think of the actual original Yeti as a gigantic creature of more humanlike aspect, in fact the most of the reports speak of it as "only" being about the size of an ordinary orangutan, and the comparison is often given that it is the size of a "Youth" or teenager: less than the size of a full-grown man (a Sherpa, and Sherpas are rather short as people go anyway) Still, one does hear of bigger ones six feet tall or more, which is unusually large for an orangutan.
There are however frequently stated to be three kinds of Yeti at small, medium or large sizes. Going by the tracks and assuming their feet are roughly at the same proportion to the maximum standing height as the usual orangutan, we can guess the smaller ones are about four feet tall, medium-sized ones averaging about five feet tall [four and a half up to five and a half feet tall normally] and biggest ones ordinarily as much as six feet tall, but reported as being up to seven and a half feet tall. This in turn generates a pretty much normal bean curve of heights centered at five feet tall.
In dealing with Translations of Yeti names I have had some contact with Tibetans and some experience with Tibetan dictionaries. In the various translations listed you will see repeated reference to "Ti" or "Tre" meaning "Bear"-actually it can mean that exactly or otherwise more vaguely or generically in the sense of "Big Hairy Beast" (I have a direct statement to that effect from a Tibetan source) so when you see translations of such names as Dzu-Teh meaning "Cattle Bear", that does not mean necessarily an actual specific type of bear. Instead it means a big hairy animal that is a predator on Yaks, or perhaps a "Bugbear" more than an actual bear if you will. On the other hand, a longer statement and a very interesting one which is to be excerpted in the next CFZ yearbook acknowledges that the common-usage name for "Yeti" is not "Yeti" (Which is so vague as to be useless) but "Migo" or "Mi-Gu" meaning "Wildman" AND that it is commonly understood as a sort of an ape, but also more specifically as being like one of two apes-one like a chimpanzee and one like a gorilla. The chimp like one is the one most regularly reported by Sherpas (at the same time this is NOT a Tibetan macaque because it is larger and its feet are very much broader)
So if the "Gorillas" reported by Rawicz actually enormous orangutans or were they sorts of Sasquatches? The creatures in the sketch are in very deep snow and so it is hard to see how long their legs really are (the one creature turned to the side also has a prominent butt which is cut off by the side of the frame in my copy)
There are several people that find fault with Rawicz's story and as a matter of fact, as in many sets of wartime reminisces, the story incorporates reminisces of more than one person.
It seems that the basic story about The Long Walk was not based only on the experiences that Rawicz had himself but were also based on the experiences of another Polish man named Glinski. And that for the most part that section was based on actual experiences. Since it did not seem that Glinski saw any Yetis, it might even be possible that that was Rawicz's contribution and in fact it is the part which has always drawn the most attention to the book. After a review of the book was published in 2008 on the website Blog Critic, Rawicz's grandson made deposition that people should not be knocking his grandad simply because he had said he saw a Yeti. On the website cited and following the link, the statement is then added "Indeed, contrary to what some have asserted, the portions of the story dealing with Yetis may not be cause for blanketing the entire ordeal as a fabrication." because as a matter of fact we DO know now that some of the other parts ARE true.
Now as to the rest of the tracks, it would seem the basic "Wildman" type is between 4 and 7 feet tall and is identical to the Biabanguli or Ban Manas, and the tracks indicate the Giganto type is between 6 and 12 feet tall and that more usually between 7 and 9: the tracks are 14 to 18 inches long commonly, as in Sasquatch, and sometimes reported as up to 24 inches, while reported heights of 10 to 20 feet tall are surely exaggerations.
At this point it will probably be a good idea to review the Wikipedia on Yetis and then look a bit more closely into the allegations of gigantic oranutans.
The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an ape-like cryptid said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal, and Tibet. The names Yeti, [Mi-Go] and Meh-Teh are commonly used by the people indigenous to the region, and are part of their history and mythology. Stories of the Yeti first emerged as a facet of Western popular culture in the 19th century.
The scientific community generally regards the Yeti as a legend, given the lack of conclusive evidence, yet it remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology. The Yeti may be considered a sort of parallel to the Bigfoot of North America
Etymology and alternate names
The word Yeti is derived from Tibetan: གཡའ་དྲེད་, Wylie: g.ya' dred, ZYPY: Yachê), a compound of the words Tibetan: གཡའ་, Wylie: g.ya', ZYPY: ya "rocky", "rocky place" and (Tibetan: དྲེད་, Wylie: dred, ZYPY: chê) "bear". Pranavananda states that the words "ti", "te" and "teh" are derived from the spoken word 'tre' (spelled "dred"), Tibetan for bear, with the 'r' so softly pronounced as to be almost inaudible, thus making it "te" or "teh".
Other terms used by Himalayan peoples do not translate exactly the same, but refer to legendary and indigenous wildlife:
- Michê (Tibetan: མི་དྲེད་, Wylie: mi dred, ZYPY: Michê) translates as "man-bear".
- [Meh-Teh or Mihti is the more usual form]
- Migoi or Mi-go (Tibetan: མི་རྒོད་, Wylie: mi rgod, ZYPY: Migö/Mirgö) translates as "wild man".
- Mirka [linguistic variant of the same name] – another name for "wild-man". Local legend holds that "anyone who sees one dies or is killed". The latter is taken from a written statement by Frank Smythe's sherpas in 1937.
- Kang Admi – "Snow Man".
- JoBran – "Man-eater".
The "Abominable Snowman"The appellation "Abominable Snowman" was coined in 1921, the same year Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury led the joint Alpine Club and Royal Geographical Society "Everest Reconnaissance Expedition" which he chronicled in Mount Everest The Reconnaissance, 1921. In the book, Howard-Bury includes an account of crossing the "Lhakpa-la" at 21,000 ft (6,400 m) where he found footprints that he believed "were probably caused by a large 'loping' grey wolf, which in the soft snow formed double tracks rather like a those of a bare-footed man". He adds that his Sherpa guides "at once volunteered that the tracks must be that of 'The Wild Man of the Snows', to which they gave the name 'metoh-kangmi'". "Metoh" translates as "man-bear" and "Kang-mi" translates as "snowman".
Confusion exists between Howard-Bury's recitation of the term "metoh-kangmi" and the term used in Bill Tilman's book Mount Everest, 1938 where Tilman had used the words "metch", which cannot exist in the Tibetan language, and "kangmi" when relating the coining of the term "Abominable Snowman". Further evidence of "metch" being a misnomer is provided by Tibetan language authority Professor David Snellgrove from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (ca. 1956), who dismissed the word "metch" as impossible, because the consonants "t-c-h" cannot be conjoined in the Tibetan language." Documentation suggests that the term "metch-kangmi" is derived from one source (from the year 1921). It has been suggested that "metch" is simply a misspelling of "metoh".
The term "Abominable Snowman" began when Henry Newman, a longtime contributor to The Statesman in Calcutta, using the pen name "Kim", interviewed the porters of the "Everest Reconnaissance expedition" upon their return to Darjeeling. Newman mistranslated the word "metoh" as "filthy", substituting the term "abominable", perhaps out of artistic license. As author Bill Tilman recounts, "[Newman] wrote long after in a letter to The Times: The whole story seemed such a joyous creation I sent it to one or two newspapers'".
Pre-19th centuryAccording to H. Siiger, the Yeti was a part of the pre-Buddhist beliefs of several Himalayan people. He was told that the Lepcha people worshipped a "Glacier Being" as a God of the Hunt. He also reported that followers of the Bön religion once believed the blood of the "mi rgod" or "wild man" had use in certain mystical ceremonies. The being was depicted as an apelike creature who carries a large stone as a weapon and makes a whistling sound.
19th centuryIn 1832, James Prinsep's Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal published trekker B. H. Hodgson's account of his experiences in northern Nepal. His local guides spotted a tall, bipedal creature covered with long dark hair, which seemed to flee in fear. Hodgson concluded it was an orangutan.
An early record of reported footprints appeared in 1899 in Laurence Waddell's Among the Himalayas. Waddell reported his guide's description of a large apelike creature that left the prints, which Waddell thought were made by a bear. Waddell heard stories of bipedal, apelike creatures but wrote that "none, however, of the many Tibetans I have interrogated on this subject could ever give me an authentic case. On the most superficial investigation it always resolved into something that somebody heard tell of."
20th centuryThe frequency of reports increased during the early 20th century, when Westerners began making determined attempts to scale the many mountains in the area and occasionally reported seeing odd creatures or strange tracks.
In 1925, N. A. Tombazi, a photographer and member of the Royal Geographical Society, writes that he saw a creature at about 15,000 ft (4,600 m) near Zemu Glacier. Tombazi later wrote that he observed the creature from about 200 to 300 yd (180 to 270 m), for about a minute. "Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes. It showed up dark against the snow, and as far as I could make out, wore no clothes." About two hours later, Tombazi and his companions descended the mountain and saw the creature's prints, described as "similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide... The prints were undoubtedly those of a biped."
Western interest in the Yeti peaked dramatically in the 1950s. While attempting to scale Mount Everest in 1951, Eric Shipton took photographs of a number of large prints in the snow, at about 6,000 m (20,000 ft) above sea level. These photos have been subject to intense scrutiny and debate. Some argue they are the best evidence of Yeti's existence, while others contend the prints are those of a mundane creature that have been distorted by the melting snow. It should also be noted that Eric Shipton was a notorious practical joker.
Peter Byrne reported finding a yeti footprint in 1948, in northern Sikkim, India near the Zemu Glacier, while on holiday from a Royal Air Force assignment in India.
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest. Hillary would later discount Yeti reports as unreliable. In his first autobiography Tenzing said that he believed the Yeti was a large ape, and although he had never seen it himself his father had seen one twice, but in his second autobiography he said he had become much more skeptical about its existence.
During the Daily Mail Snowman Expedition of 1954, the mountaineering leader John Angelo Jackson made the first trek from Everest to Kanchenjunga in the course of which he photographed symbolic paintings of the Yeti at Tengboche gompa. Jackson tracked and photographed many footprints in the snow, most of which were identifiable. However, there were many large footprints which could not be identified. These flattened footprint-like indentations were attributed to erosion and subsequent widening of the original footprint by wind and particles.
On 19 March 1954, the Daily Mail printed an article which described expedition teams obtaining hair specimens from what was alleged to be a Yeti scalp found in Pangboche monastery. The hairs were black to dark brown in colour in dim light, and fox red in sunlight. The hair was analysed by Professor Frederic Wood Jones, an expert in human and comparative anatomy. During the study, the hairs were bleached, cut into sections and analysed microscopically. The research consisted of taking microphotographs of the hairs and comparing them with hairs from known animals such as bears and orangutans. Jones concluded that the hairs were not actually from a scalp. He contended that while some animals do have a ridge of hair extending from the pate to the back, no animals have a ridge (as in the Pangboche "scalp") running from the base of the forehead across the pate and ending at the nape of the neck. Jones was unable to pinpoint exactly the animal from which the Pangboche hairs were taken. He was, however, convinced that the hairs were not of a bear or anthropoid ape. He suggested that the hairs were from the shoulder of a coarse-haired hoofed animal.
Sławomir Rawicz claimed in his book The Long Walk, published in 1956, that as he and some others were crossing the Himalayas in the winter of 1940, their path was blocked for hours by two bipedal animals that were doing seemingly nothing but shuffling around in the snow. Rawicz's entire account has since come to be regarded as fictional.
Beginning in 1957, wealthy American oilman Tom Slick funded a few missions to investigate Yeti reports. In 1959, supposed Yeti feces were collected by one of Slick's expeditions; fecal analysis found a parasite which could not be classified. Cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans wrote, "Since each animal has its own parasites, this indicated that the host animal is equally an unknown animal." The United States government thought that finding the Yeti was likely enough to create three rules for American expeditions searching for it: Obtain a Nepalese permit, do not harm the Yeti except in self defense, and let the Nepalese government approve any news reporting on the animal's discovery.
In 1959, actor James Stewart, while visiting India, reportedly smuggled remains of a supposed Yeti, the so-called Pangboche Hand, by concealing it in his luggage when he flew from India to London.
In 1960, Hillary mounted an expedition to collect and analyze physical evidence of the Yeti. He sent a supposed Yeti "scalp" from the Khumjung monastery to the West for testing, whose results indicated the scalp was manufactured from the skin of a serow, a goat-like Himalayan antelope. Anthropologist Myra Shackley disagreed with this conclusion on the grounds that the "hairs from the scalp look distinctly monkey-like and that it contains parasitic mites of a species different from that recovered from the serow."[Still Living]
Up to the 1960s, belief in the yeti was relatively common in Bhutan and in 1966 a Bhutanese stamp was made to honor the creature [several, actually]. However, in the twenty-first century belief in the being has declined.
In 1970, British mountaineer Don Whillans claimed to have witnessed a creature when scaling Annapurna. According to Whillans, while scouting for a campsite, he heard some odd cries which his Sherpa guide attributed to a Yeti's call. That night, he saw a dark shape moving near his camp. The next day, he observed a few human-like footprints in the snow, and that evening, viewed with binoculars a bipedal, ape-like creature for 20 minutes as it apparently searched for food not far from his camp.[ibid]
There is a famous Yeti hoax, known as the Snow Walker Film. The footage was created for Paramount's UPN show, Paranormal Borderland, ostensibly by the show's producers. The show ran from 12 March to 6 August 1996. Fox purchased and used the footage in their later program on The World's Greatest Hoaxes.
21st centuryIn 2004, Henry Gee, editor of the journal Nature, mentioned the Yeti as an example of a legend deserving further study, writing, "The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as Yetis are founded on grains of truth ... Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold."
The Yeti is said to have been spotted in the remote Mae Charim area of the Luang Prabang Range range, between the Thai highlands and Sainyabuli Province, Laos.
In early December 2007, American television presenter Joshua Gates and his team (Destination Truth) reported finding a series of footprints in the Everest region of Nepal resembling descriptions of Yeti. Each of the footprints measured 33 cm (13 in) in length with five toes that measured a total of 25 cm (9.8 in) across. Casts were made of the prints for further research. The footprints were examined by Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University, who believed them to be too morphologically accurate to be fake or man made, before changing his mind after making further investigations.
On 25 July 2008, the BBC reported that hairs collected in the remote Garo Hills area of North-East India by Dipu Marak had been analyzed at Oxford Brookes University in the UK by primatologist Anna Nekaris and microscopy expert Jon Wells. These initial tests were inconclusive, and ape conservation expert Ian Redmond told the BBC that there was similarity between the cuticle pattern of these hairs and specimens collected by Edmund Hilary during Himalayan expeditions in the 1950s and donated to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and announced planned DNA analysis. This analysis has since revealed that the hair came from the Himalayan Goral.
On 20 October 2008 a team of seven Japanese adventurers photographed footprints which could allegedly have been made by a Yeti. The team's leader, Yoshiteru Takahashi claims to have observed a Yeti on a 2003 expedition and is determined to capture the creature on film.
A group of Chinese scientists and explorers in 2010 proposed to renew searches in Shennongjia province, which was the site of expeditions in the 1970s and 1980s.
At a 2011 conference in Russia, participating scientists and enthusiasts declared having "95% evidence" of the Yeti's existence. However, this claim was disputed later; American anthropologist and anatomist Jeffrey Meldrum, who was present during the Russian expedition, claimed the "evidence" found was simply an attempt by local officials to drum up publicity.
A yeti was reportedly captured in Russia, in December 2011. A hunter reported having seen a bear like creature, trying to kill one of his sheep, but after he fired his gun, the creature ran into a forest on 2 legs. Now some border patrol soldiers captured a hairy 2 legged female creature, that eats meat and vegetation. The creature is more similar to a gorilla, than a bear, but its arms are shorter than the legs (opposite to a gorilla). It's about 2 meters (6 feet) tall. This report was later revealed as a hoax, or a publicity stunt for charity.
Possible explanationsMisidentification of Himalayan wildlife has been proposed as an explanation for some Yeti sightings, including the Chu-Teh, a Langur monkey living at lower altitudes, the Tibetan blue bear, the Himalayan brown bear or Dzu-Teh, also known as the Himalayan red bear[Same species, wrong geographic race-DD]. Some have also suggested the Yeti could actually be a human hermit.
One well publicized expedition to Bhutan reported that a hair sample had been obtained that, after DNA analysis by Professor Bryan Sykes, could not be matched to any known animal. Analysis completed after the media release, however, clearly showed that the samples were from the Brown bear (Ursus arctos) and the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus).
In 1986, South Tyrolean mountaineer Reinhold Messner claimed to have a face-to-face encounter with a Yeti. He has since written a book, My Quest for the Yeti, and claims to have actually killed one. According to Messner, the Yeti is actually the endangered Himalayan brown bear, Ursus arctos isabellinus, that can walk upright or on all fours.
In 2003, Japanese researcher and mountaineer Dr. Makoto Nebuka published the results of his twelve year linguistic study postulating that the word "Yeti" is actually a corruption of the word "meti", a regional dialect term for "bear". Nebuka claims that the ethnic Tibetans fear and worship the bear as a supernatural being. Nebuka's claims were subject to almost immediate criticism, and he was accused of linguistic carelessness. Dr. Raj Kumar Pandey, who has researched both Yetis and mountain languages, said "it is not enough to blame tales of the mysterious beast of the Himalayas on words that rhyme but mean different things."
Some speculate that these reported creatures could be present-day specimens of the extinct giant ape Gigantopithecus. However, while the Yeti is generally described as bipedal, most scientists believe Gigantopithecus to have been quadrupedal, and so massive that, unless it evolved specifically as a bipedal ape (like Oreopithecus and the hominids), walking upright would have been even more difficult for the now extinct primate than it is for its extant quadrupedal relative, the orangutan.
[There has been a recent contradiction to this line of thinking with the upright-walking zoo gorilla, which makes nonsense of all such criticisms. See the popular blog link posted on the sidebar. Bernard Heuvelmans has stated in his checklist that what he calls "le Petit Yeti" is only a different type of orangutan, and he has listed other types of relic orangutans living in the nearby jungle areas as Bir Sidic or Olo-banda (Big Monkey): in fact it can be considered that the Olo-Banda is the low-altitude version of the Mahalangur (Yeti of the Mount Everest region) since both names are identical ("Big Monkey"). Paul Mead writes me that there is firm DNA evidence that recent expeditions have confirmed there is DNA evidence for a uncatalogued large primate in the area and it is probably an orangutan (and not a new species)
For the footnotes and sources to the Wikipedia entry, see the end of this blog posting-DD]
Out of the series the Shipton track is abnormal. Out of the series the Shipton tracks are not only well larger than the typical "Yeti" tracks of the series (by at least a couple of inches longer and wider) the shape of the track as shown in the photograph is abnormal. Most notably, the "Big toe" that is shown should not be there at all. The "Normal" tracks have a much smaller big toe set lower down on the foot, like the ones Cronin saw, photographed and drew the outline of.
Some depictions of Yetis and similar creatures below. The first one is a Japanese oji carving (Comparable to the netsuke on the other end of the cord) of a Xing-Xing, and similar to other depictions from Mainland China and even Taiwan and Hainan island (Vietnam). It is slightly caricatured but still a recognisable [Mainland] Orangutan. The representation to the right is carved into a rock face in India and I suspect it is meant to be a Yeti mostly because it has a distinctly pointed head. Below it are a book illustration and a figure taken off a Tibetan map, of walking Yetis: and they are basically comparable except one is evidently an adult while the other is evidently a juvenile. The juvenile does seem to correspond to the rock-face carving in India in most major features. Note that the feet are always being shown as "Mitten-shaped" rather than resembling the footprint found, photographed and cast by Eric Shipton in 1951.
Unknown Primate of Southeast Asia.
Etymology: Land Dayak (Austronesian), “long-haired bear,” the common name for the sun bear. [Incorrect. Wallace gives this as one of the common names for a type of orangutans-DD]
Variant name: Bali djakai (Lawangan/Austronesian, “demon”).
Robust body. Shoulder height, 4 feet. Height standing erect, 6 feet. Covered in black hair. Bullet-shaped head. Bull neck. Hair on arms and thighs is 3 inches long. Thick legs.
Walks on all fours. Stands on its hind legs occasionally. Beats its chest. Tracks: Both humanlike and bearlike. Distribution: Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, as well as in neighboring Sarawak State, Malaysia, both on the island of Borneo.
In the 1930s, Leonard Clark ran across a Bali djakai at a water hole in the Borneo mountains. It picked up a helmet left behind, detected the scent of Clark and his guide, beat its chest, and disappeared into the bush.
Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, earl of Cranbrook, collected descriptions of the Beruang rambai in the 1960s and concluded it was neither bear nor orangutan.
(1) The Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is a logical candidate, based on the name alone, though its hair is short.
(2) Misidentified Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus).
Sources: Leonard Clark, A Wanderer till I Die (New York: Funk and Wagnal l s, 1937), pp. 174, 188–195; Odette Tchernine, The Yeti (London: Neville Spearman, 1970), pp. 77–78; Jeffrey A. McNeely and Paul Spencer Wachtel , Soul of the Tiger (New York: Doubleday, 1988), p. 259.
Over the past couple of months I've been reading John MacKinnon's In Search of the Red Ape (Collins, 1974) - one of the first books anyone reads whenever they want to learn about orangutans. The book is stuffed full of anecdotes and other natural history tales about Borneo and Sumatra, and it seems that MacKinnon (who, these days, is best known for his association with the discovery of the Saola Pseudoryx nghetinensis in Vietnam (MacKinnon 2000, Van Dung et al. 1993, 1994)) encountered just about every creature you could hope to encounter in the tropical jungles of the region... yes, even the enigmatic orang-pendek (or its tracks, at least).
Anyway, one particular section of the book really stands out for me: the bit where MacKinnon catches sight of a gigantic, terrestrially walking male orangutan...
I was nearly home when I saw a terrifying spectacle. For a moment I thought it was a trick of my vision. A huge, black orang-utan was walking along the path towards me. I had never seen such a large animal even in a zoo. He must have weighed every bit of three hundred pounds. Hoping that he had not noticed me, I dived behind a large tree. I was in no state to defend myself, or run from him should he come for me, and I could recall clearly the natives' terrible stories about old, ground-living orangs. I held my breath as the monster passed within a few feet of me and let him get about forty yards ahead before I followed in pursuit. He was enormous, as black as a gorilla but with his back almost bare of hair; Ivan the Terrible was the only name I could think of. (MacKinnon 1974, p. 54)'Ivan' was an efficient, speedy walker and preferred not to climb. MacKinnon doesn't state whether 'Ivan' was walking quadrupedally or bipedally, but remember that orangutans are highly capable bipeds, and indeed work on their energetics shows that they are more efficient (in terms of wattage/kilo) at it than we are (for more on this see Bipedal orangs, gait of a dinosaur, and new-look Ichthyostega: exciting times in functional anatomy part I). It seems that giant male orangs that become too heavy for an easy life in the trees descend to the ground, and often walk upright and bipedally (though they presumably use their hands for regular support).
What makes MacKinnon's report particularly interesting is that it isn't the only report of an unusually large, ground-walking orang on record (Kaplan & Rogers 2000). Among other contemporary primatologists, Biruté Galdikas is also on record as having seen an exceptionally large orangutan walking on the ground. In fact, there's a whole chapter devoted to such animals in Chad Arment's 2004 book Cryptozoology: Science & Speculation, and I've unashamedly plundered from it here. Arment (2004) discusses the fact that 19th century scientists had a rather confused view of orangutan systematics: they knew that people on Borneo and elsewhere used different names for different 'kinds' of orangs, and they wondered whether these different 'kinds' corresponded to species [flanged male Bornean orang shown here, photographed at Louisville Zoo. From wikipedia].
Huxley, for example, referred in 1877 to the Mias Pappan or Zimo, Mias Kassu and Mias Rambi, noting 'Whether there are distinct species, however, or whether they are mere races, and how far any of them are identical with the Sumatran Orang ... are problems which are at present undecided; and the variability of these great apes is so extensive, that the settlement of the question is a matter of great difficulty'. Damn, Hux was smart. The binomial Pongo wurmbii Tiedermann, 1808 was sometimes used for the Mias Pappan, and this name still survives as one of the subspecies of the Borean orangutan Pongo pygmaeus. However, it's not clear that all 'Mias Pappan' individuals belonged to P. p. wurmbii. Incidentally, it's been suggested both that P. p. wurmbii might be as distinct from other Bornean orangs as P. abelii (Sumatran orang) is, and that it might be even more closely related to P. abelii than it is to the rest of P. pygmaeus (Groves et al. 1992). If true, orangutan taxonomy would perhaps need revision, as wurmbii (named 1808) predates abelii (named 1827). Genetic work does not support this proposal, however, with Borean orang populations exhibiting relatively little genetic variation (Lu et al. 1996) [image below, taken by Andi Ramadhan, shows a Sumatran orang (and a man) at Bukit Lawang orang sanctuary. Note the stiff-legged bipedal pose].
In an 1846 account of his visit to Borneo, Captian Henry Keppel referred to the relatively enormous Mias Pappan, noting that it was not only very large compared to other orangs, but also difficult to procure. What makes Keppel's account particularly interesting is that he obtained a hand from one of these allegedly gigantic creatures. 'This hand far exceeds in length, breadth, and power, the hand of any man in the ship; and though smoked and shrunk, the circumference of the fingers is half as big again as an ordinary human finger' (Keppel 1846, Arment 2004). Without measurements available, I find it difficult to determine how exceptional this specimen really was, as I imagine that the hand of a large, mature adult orang is larger and longer than that of a large man anyway.
Keppel also referred in passing to a giant orang killed on Sumatra. Arment (2004) tracked this account down: it was first published in Clarke Abel's Asiatic Researches and was also written about by Broderip (1849). A party of men landed on Ramboon on the north-west Sumatran coast, and here encountered a large male orangutan. The animal was pursued both on the ground, and while it climbed about in the branches, and it took a long time and a pretty horrendous amount of shooting, spearing and stoning for the creature to be killed. Like others who have killed non-human apes...
'Those who aided in this slaughter acknowledged that they were distressed by the human-like expression of his countenance, the piteous manner in which he applied his hands to his wounds, and the whole bearing of the dying combatant. They confessed that the sight was such as almost to make them question the nature of the act they were committing' (Abel, in Arment 2004, p. 206).
Anyway, the big deal about this poor animal is that, when measured, it was found to be absolutely enormous: 'seven feet in what might be called his ordinary standing posture, and eight feet when suspended for the purpose of being skinned'. Abel measured the skin and concluded that the animal's standing height was 6 ft 6½ in (1.9 m). The hand - measured from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger - was 30 cm long, and the foot 35 cm long. Standing heights for orangs are typically given as 1.36 m for males (Groves 1971), so an animal of this size would be truly exceptional. The world record standing height for a gorilla is given as 1.95 m for an Eastern lowland gorilla Gorilla beringei graueri collected in 1938, though there's an unconfirmed record of another individual, shot in 1932, that was 2.06 m tall (Carwardine 1995). To get at least a rough idea of what a very tall orang might look like, I knocked up the adjacent image. The human in the image is 1.7 m tall.
The good news is that this giant Sumatran orang was deposited in the museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, the zoological collection of which was later absorbed into that of the Indian Society at Kolkata. Arment (2004) speculated that the specimen might have been sent from here to Britain. The giant hand that Keppel wrote about is also supposed to have gone into a museum, as was a very large skull that Keppel also wrote about. However, we don't know where these specimens are now, and Arment urged 'British and French investigators with contacts at the British Museum [now The Natural History Museum], the Royal Asiatic Society, the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, and any other pertinent collections, to determine if these specimens were ever accessioned' (Arment 2004, p. 208). I haven't done this, despite the fact that I know primatologists who have worked on accessioned ape material in the collections of the NHM and elsewhere. Colin Groves might be a good person to ask, but I don't know him.
Carwardine (1995) referred to a Bornean orang said to be 1.8 m in standing height, which again would be exceptional and well within 'record' range. I haven't found any further references to this individual (Carwardine doesn't provide any details), but I haven't really looked that hard. Wikipedia's orangutan page says that males can reach 1.75 m [wikipedia's diagram of a large male orang compared to a 1.8 m tall human shown here].
While the animals mentioned here are best interpreted as exceptional, world-record examples of their species, you may know that, once upon a time, orangutans approaching or even exceeding 2 m in height were apparently not so extraordinary. Fossils of extinct orangutans from Sumatra and from the Asian mainland represent animals this size, and it seems (from the remains we have) that sizes of this sort were typical and certainly not unusual. Were these large extinct forms (the taxonomic status of which is currently ambiguous[emphasis added by DD]) predominantly terrestrial? MacKinnon (1974) thought so, and suggested that they 'probably ranged on the ground, like modern gorillas, in large bands, protected by enormous males' (p. 212).
Based on what we know of fossils and of the prehistoric distribution of orangutans (they were previously present in subtropical woodland and montane forests, and were not necessarily tropical apes), MacKinnon further speculated that the relatively small size and arboreal habits of modern orangs are recent specialisations. Whether this is true or not (so far as I know, no-one has looked at the hypothesis in detail), note that it has nothing to do with the restriction of orangs to Borneo and/or Sumatra: it now seems that Bornean and Sumatran orangs diverged about 1.1 million years ago (though there are also estimates positing their divergence at 3.4 million years ago: see Warren et al. 2001), meaning that the two species were distinct even before Sumatra and Borneo became isolated from the Malaysian mainland (this happened in the Middle Pleistocene, about 300,000 years ago) [adjacent map, from Warren et al. (2001), shows inferred migratory routes of orangs into Borneo and Sumatra prior to their separation from each other, and from the mainland].
Can we really verify the presence of modern orangutans nearly 2 m tall? And could such animals still be around today?
For previous Tet Zoo articles on apes and other primates see...
- Chimpanzees make and use spears
- Probably not a sasquatch
- Bipedal orangs, gait of a dinosaur, and new-look Ichthyostega: exciting times in functional anatomy part I
- When I grow up, I want to be a functional anatomist: functional anatomy part III
- Chinese black rhinos and deinotheres, giant sengis, and yet more new lemurs
- One-eyed indri
- The Cultured Ape, and Attenborough on gorillas
- Zihlman's 'pygmy chimpanzee hypothesis'
Arment, C. 2004. Cryptozoology: Science & Speculation. Coachwhip Publications, Landisville, Pennsylvania.
Broderip, W. J. 1849. Zoological Recreations. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.
Carwardine, M. 1995. The Guinness Book of Animal Records. Guinness Publishing, Enfield, Middlesex.
Groves, C. P. 1971. Pongo pygmaeus. Mammalian Species 4, 1-6.
- ., Westwood, C. & Shea, B. T. 1992. Unfinished business: mahalanobis and a clockwork orang. Journal of Human Evolution 22, 327-340.
Kaplan, G. & Rogers, L. J. 2000. The Orangutans. Perseus Publications, Cambridge (Mass.).
Keppel, H. 1846. The Expedition to Borneo of H.M.S. Dido for the Suppression of Piracy. Harper & Bros, New York.
Lu, Z., Karesh, W. B., Janczewski, D. N., Frazier-Taylor, H., Sajuthi, D., Gombek, F., Andau, M., Martenson, J. S. & O'Brien, S. J. 1996. Genomic differentiation among natural populations of orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus). Current Biology 6, 1326-1336.
MacKinnon, J. 1974. In Search of the Red Ape. Collins, London.
- . 2000. New mammals in the 21st century? Annals of Missouri Botanical Garden 87, 63-66.
Warren, K. S., Verschoor, E. J., Langenhuijzen, S., Heriyanto, Swan, R. A., Vigilant, L. & Heeney, J. L. 2001. Speciation and intrasubspecific variation of Bornean orangutans, Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus. Molecular Biology and Evolution 18, 472-480.
Van Dung, V., Giao, P. M., Chinh, N. N., Tuoc, D., Arctander, P. & MacKinnon, J. 1993. A new species of living bovid from Vietnam. Nature 363, 443-445.
- ., Giao, P. M., Chinh, N. N., Tuoc, D. & MacKinnon, J. 1994. Discovery and conservation of the Vu Quang ox in Vietnam. Oryx 28, 16-21.
I remember that black orangutan passage from MacKinnon's book; it was pretty remarkable to read.
What makes MacKinnon's report particularly interesting is that it isn't the only report of an unusually large, ground-walking, bipedal orang on recordAre all such reports from Borneo, or are there any from Sumatra too? There are still - barely - tigers on the latter island, but not on the former (although there were tigers on Borneo too in the Pleistocene). Leopards in Africa are known to have killed adult male gorillas, so surely a Sumatran tiger is more than capable of dispatching a lone, terrestrial male orangutan, no matter how large?
--Actually, as Ivan Sanderson takes pains to specify, the name "Orang Utan" is "Kitchen-Malay," a sort of creole trade language and the more proper common-usage term is Mias. The "Utan" is evidently also pronounced "Hutan." And the black-haired giant orangutan of Borneo is what is referred to as "Beraung Rambai" in In Pursuit of the Abominable Snowman. Eberhart incorrectly identifies the names as meaning a bear-actually Russell Wallace also specifies this is one of the common names for the Orangutan on Borneo. Beruang does indeed mean "Bear", but Malaysians when asked to translate Beraung Rambai do not know what the Rambai means. And the name "Orang Pendek" does not mean any one thing, and it is a foreign name when it is used in Sumatra: the native name is Sedapa. Likewise, both Sedapa and its other synonyms such as Orang Gugu do not denote any one thing both a pygmy and a normal-human-sized form: and the reports include both more hominid and more pongid types under the same names. All of which I have published on before.
As the link states, the original CFZ blog posting was on May 17, 2010, and the reprint on this blog was made on September 11, 2011. The original material comes from the Yahoo group Frontiers of Zoology as posted on September 27, 2008 For more specific information please consult the Orang Pendek article
Which really is the standard information and never should have got into the situation where it caused so much confusion. Once again, as far as my information goes, there are two basic things being called Orang Pendek or Sedapa (etc), one is an ape and one is a type of human (or hominid), and neither one has thus far proven to be an unknown species, rather the contrary. Of course it would be good to hear either of a previously-uncatalogued species of human or a pongid involved, but the burden of proof is on the people who say either one actually is a new species. And that can sometimes be a slippery proposition.
Best Wishes, Dale D.
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