Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is purportedly an ape-like cryptid that inhabits forests, mainly in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid. The term "Sasquatch" is an anglicized derivative of the word "Sésquac"
which means "wild man" in a Salish Native American language.
A majority of scientists
discount the existence of Bigfoot and consider it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a legitimate animal, in part because of the large numbers
thought necessary to maintain a breeding population. A small minority of accredited researchers such as Jane Goodall and Jeffrey Meldrum have expressed interest and possible belief in the creature with
Meldrum expressing the opinion that evidence collected of alleged Bigfoot encounters warrants further evaluation and testing.
Nevertheless, Bigfoot remains one of the more famous and controversial examples of a cryptid within cryptozoology and an enduring legend.
Bigfoot is described in reports
as a large hairy ape-like creature, ranging between 6–10 feet (2–3 m) tall, weighing in excess of 500 pounds
(230 kg), and covered in dark brown or dark reddish hair. Alleged witnesses have described large eyes, a pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead; the top of the head has been described
as rounded and crested, similar to the sagittal crest of the male gorilla. Bigfoot is commonly reported to have a strong, unpleasant smell by those
who claim to have encountered it. The enormous footprints for which it is named have been as large as 24 inches (60 cm)
long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. While most casts have five toes—like all known apes—some casts of alleged
Bigfoot tracks have had numbers ranging from two to six. Some have also contained claw marks, making it likely that a portion
came from known animals such as bears, which have five toes and claws. Some proponents have also claimed that Bigfoot is omnivorous and mainly nocturnal.
Various types of creatures
have been suggested to explain both the sightings and what type of creature Bigfoot would be if it existed. The scientific
community typically attributes sightings to either hoaxes or misidentification of known animals and their tracks. While cryptozoologists
generally explain Bigfoot as an unknown ape, some believers in Bigfoot attribute the phenomenon to UFOs or other paranormal causes. A minority of proponents of a natural explanation
have attributed Bigfoot to animals that are not apes such as the giant ground sloth.
The reported size of Bigfoot
approximates that of a bear standing on its hind legs, and bears have a high prevalence
in regions said to be inhabited by Bigfoot; as such, they are likely candidates to explain some sightings.
In 2007, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said that photos the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization claimed showed
a juvenile Bigfoot were most likely of a bear with mange. Jeffrey Meldrum, on the other hand, said the limb proportions of the suspected
juvenile in question were not bear-like, and stated that he felt they were "more like a human."
A tale presented in Theodore Roosevelt's 1892 book The Wilderness Hunter (reprinted in his 1900 book
Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches) describing an encounter between two hunters and a violent bear is sometimes presented
by Bigfoot proponents as historical evidence of the creature's existence.
Most of the scientific community
discounts the existence of Bigfoot, as there is little or no evidence supporting the survival of such a large, prehistoric
ape-like creature. The evidence that does exist points more towards a hoax or delusion than to sightings of a genuine creature.
In a 1996 USA Today article titled "Bigfoot Merely Amuses Most Scientists", Washington State
zoologist John Crane says, "There is no such thing as Bigfoot. No data other than material that's clearly been fabricated
has ever been presented." In addition to the lack of evidence, scientists cite the fact that Bigfoot is alleged to live in
regions unusual for a large, nonhuman primate, i.e., temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere; all recognized nonhuman
apes are found in the tropics of Africa and Asia. Thus, as with other proposed megafauna
cryptids, climate and food supply issues would make such a creature's survival in reported habitats unlikely. Furthermore,
great apes are not found in the fossil record in the Americas, and no Bigfoot remains have ever been found. Indeed, scientific
consensus is that the breeding population of such an animal would be so large that it would account for many more purported
sightings than currently occur, making the existence of such an animal an almost certain impossibility.
A few scientists have offered
varying degrees of support for Bigfoot study and beliefs. Jeffrey Meldrum characterizes the search for Sasquatch as "a valid scientific endeavor"
and says that the fossil remains of an ancient giant ape called Gigantopithecus could turn out to be ancestors of today’s
commonly known Bigfoot. John Napier asserts that the scientific community's attitude towards Bigfoot stems primarily from
insufficient evidence. Anthropologist David Daegling echoed this idea, citing a "remarkably limited amount of Sasquatch data
that are amenable to scientific scrutiny." Field biologist George Shaller has spoken in favor of greater study of Bigfoot evidence while still expressing
skepticism towards the possibility of its existence. Similarly, Napier has argued that some "soft evidence" is compelling
enough that he advises against "dismissing its reality out of hand."Other scientists who have expressed guarded interest in
Sasquatch reports include Russell Mittermeier, Daris Swindler, and Esteban Sarmiento. Jane Goodall, in a September 27, 2002 interview on National Public Radio's "Science
Friday", expressed her ideas about the existence of Bigfoot. First stating "I'm sure they exist", she later went on to say,
chuckling, "Well, I'm a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist", and finally: "You know, why isn't there a body? I can't
answer that, and maybe they don't exist, but I want them to." Anthropologist Carleton S. Coon, whose theories on the evolution of race in humans have been
largely discredited, expressed support for Bigfoot's existence in a posthumously published essay
More links for
information on “Bigfoot”