Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology
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Enhanced version of Frame 352 of the Patterson-Gimlin film, showing "Patty" turning towards the camera.

Category Hairy humanoid
Proposed scientific names Paranthropus eldurrelli (Strasenburgh, 1971), Gigantopithecus canadensis (Krantz, 1985), Australopithecus canadensis (Krantz, 1985), Gigantanthropus canadensis (Krantz, 1985)
Other names See below
Country reported Pacific Northwest of Canada and the United States
First reported See below
Prominent investigators Grover S. Krantz
John Green
Loren Coleman
Jeffrey Meldrum
Cliff Barackman

Bigfoot or the sasquatch (Halkomelen: "timber giant"[1]) is a cryptid giant hominid reported primarily from the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the United States, as well as much of the rest of the North American continent.[1][2][3]

Most Bigfoot sightings are reported from the montane forests and temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, in northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; and British Columbia and Alberta, with less common sightings occuring well into Alaska. Generally, "Bigfoot" is used to refer to the animal in the United States, and "sasquatch" is used to refer to it in Canada.[2]

Bigfoot-like animals are reported from across North America, and have been given various names such as wood apes, North American apes, and hairy bipeds;[1] hominids seen in other countries are also often referred to as Bigfoot.[2] Notable examples of other American hairy hominids, which may or may not be simply regional bigfoot populations, include the skunk ape, the Ohio grassman, and the Fouke monster.[2]

Bigfoot is perhaps the world's most famous cryptid, and is certainly one of the best-documented and most regularly sighted, due to its fairly close proximity to well-developed areas.


"Sasquatch" is an anglicization of the Halkomelen word "sokqueatl" or "sossq'tal", meaning "timber giant", and was first used by J. W. Burns in the 1920's.[1] According to other sources, "sasquatch" is a combination of several different Native Canadian names which Burns believed referred to the same creature.[2]

The name "Bigfoot" was first used by Humboldt Times columnist Andrew Genzoli on 5 October 1958, after the discovery of a series of large tracks near Bluff Creek in northern California.[1] The tracks were discovered by construction worker Jerry Crew, and his fellow workers apparently coined the term.[2]


A reconstruction of "Patty" walking, seen from the front.

Due to the vast amount of alleged sightings, it is easy to build a picture of Bigfoot using recurring details culled from reliable sightings. It is described by eyewitnesses as a large ape-like creature with a height ranging from six to nine feet when mature, and is stocky and bulky, with a large barrel chest.[2]

Its head is said to be small and pointed, with no discernable neck or forehead, and its eyes are small, dark, and round, and stare forwards. It has a sloping forehead, and its face is described as having a very heavy brow ridge, upon which is a "continuous upcurled fringe of hair"[2] The face is flat and usually said to be dark, but several young individuals are described as having lighter faces.[2] The nose is broad and flat, and the mouth is wide.[1]

Bigfoot is always reported to be covered in shaggy, yet relatively short, hair, with no distinction between body and head hair. According to some Bigfoot researchers, younger individuals have darker hair, adults have reddish-brown, and eldery individuals may have silvery hair:[2] however, others state that colouration seems to have no connection with age.[1] A number of sightings describe the animals as having a strong, putrid odour,[1] which Roger Patterson compared to a "dog rolling in wet manure".

Bigfoot seems to be primarily nocturnal, and is usually solitary, although a number of sightings of family groups have been recorded.[2] It is not afriad of walking through water, and may even use waterways as travel paths, and its maximum running speed has been estimated as possibly 35 to 40 miles per hour. It is reported to be inactive in cold weather.[1]

It is believed that Bigfoot does not have a language as we would understand it, but it is reported to make several calls,[2] including high pitched whistles, screams, and howls.

The possible diet of Bigfoot has been debated for some time, as it has been argued that there is not enough food in the Pacific Northwest to support a breeding population of large apes. Based on eyewitness reports and ecological speculation, Bigfoot is believed to be omnivorous, feeding on rodents, deer, roots, insect larvae, carrion, berries, crasses, clams, fish, and vegetables. It may search for rodents by digging up rocks and piling them up, pursue and kill deer, and split open rotting logs in search of grubs. There is no evidence that they use tools or fire.[1]

Another point of contention among researchers is whether or not Bigfoot is dangerous to people.[2] Many cannibal giants of Native American myth are explicitly man-killers, and Ivan T. Sanderson wrote that the folkloric Indian "Bigfoot" were said to kidnap human females and, in some traditions, males.[2] There are a number of people who claim to have been kidnapped by Bigfoot, most famously Albert Ostman.[2] Otherwise, Bigfoot seem to show curiosity about human activity, and may throw rocks at people.[1]


Main article: List of Bigfoot sightings

Several early explorers of the Americas reported hairy, red-haired giants in southern North America; Alvarez de Pineda reported "gigantic people" or "very tall people at ten or eleven palms in height" near Texas or Missisipi in 1519;[4] and Samuel de Champlain reported on the Micmac legend of the gougou in 1603. [5]

Possibly the earliest encounter between Bigfoot and a western eyewitness may have been made by Daniel Boone in the late Eighteenth Century. According to Boone family tradition, in the last years of his life, Boone told several people that he had killed a ten foot tall, hairy giant which he called a "yahoo."[6] Boone's name for the creature has been taken as a reference to Gulliver's Travels, though the Cherokee term for a hairy giant is "yeahoh".

Notable individual Bigfoot[]

A number of individual Bigfoot seem to have been encountered multiple times, most notably Old Yellow Top, an "ape man" distinguished by a yellow mane or patch of hair on his head and a possible limp, who was reported from around Cobalt, Ontario, Canada, from 1906 to 1970, a period of 64 years.[1]

The female Bigfoot depicted in the Patterson-Gimlin film has been nicknamed "Patty", although there do not appear to be any other claimed sightings of her as an individual.[1]

Cliff Barrackman identified ten casts of Bigfoot tracks which he believes were made by the same individual.[7]


Mistaken identity[]

One of the most common sceptical identities offered for Bigfoot is that it is a brown bear (Ursus arctos) standing upright.

An upright black bear (Ursus americanus) has also been suggested as a possible identity.

The only animal which has been suggested as a plausible "mistaken identity" for Bigfoot is the brown bear (Ursus arctos) or black bear (Ursus americanus). Although an upright bear could briefly be misidentified as an ape, cryptozoologists have noted several glaring discrepancies. The hind legs of a bear are short and nothing like those of an ape; they have large, visible ears on the tops of their heads; their muzzles are protruding; and their shoulders are small and sloping, not wide like those of an ape or hominoid.[1]

Bears are not regarded as good sources for alleged Bigfoot tracks, as their prints look nothing like those of Bigfoot. In bears, the first toe is the short and the third toe the largest; the foreprints and hindprints overlap; the big toes are on the inside of the stride; and the feet are turned inwards. In addition, the hind feet of bears do not come close to matching those of supposed Bigfoot tracks, though it has been noted that distortion from overlapping prints would make bear tracks seem larger than they really are.[1]


Although hoaxes of sightings and tracks have certainly occurred, many cryptozoologists reject the notion that all Bigfoot sightings and tracks could be hoaxes,[1][2] and according to Loren Coleman, most prints found in the Pacific Northwest are believed to be genuine.[2]

In particular, the long strides of many tracks would be difficult for an individual to fake, and the depths of some prints would require the hoaxer to exert up to 450 pounds of pressure into compact soil. Tracks have often been found in remote places where hoaxers are unlikely to have left them, and dermal ridges and sweat pores have been identified on some tracks, unlikely features for any hoaxer to add.[1][2]

North American ape[]

Not to be confused with the term North American ape, which is used to refer to cryptid American apes apparently distinct from Bigfoot.

According to George Eberhart, a species of primate or ape which had independently evolved in North America is unlikely. Although a number of fossil primates are known from North America, they disappear from the fossil record towards the end of the Eocene, when the world cooled and forests shrunk. The latest known North American primate was Ekgmowechashala, of Late Oligocene Oregon and South Dakota.[1]

Short-faced bear[]

Dale A. Drinnon theorises that a living short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) rearing up on two legs, as shown on this statue at San Diego Zoo, could be mistaken for a very large ape.

Dale A. Drinnon has suggested that a number of accounts included in collections of supposed Bigfoot sightings, especially from the Eastern United States, may in fact refer to surviving short-faced bears, which he notes had the limb proportions of a gorilla. These Bigfoot accounts describe much larger animals with eyes that glow in the dark.[8]

Ground sloth[]

A minority of cryptozoologists have theorised that some bigfoot sightings could refer to giant ground sloths, semi-bipedal bear-like animals which lived in North America until ~11,000 years ago. A commonly-invoked species is Megalonyx jeffersoni, which was a forest-dwelling browser with an erect, plantigrade posture, which ranged as far north as Alaska and the Yukon, with ice age concentrations in the American East, Florida, the Gulf Coast, and California. Bernard Heuvelmans suggested this possibility to Grover S. Krantz in 1985,[9] and the question was later raised at the 1993 Sasquatch Symposium.[10] During the 1990s, palaeontologist Richard Cerutti wrote to David Oren suggesting that the Amerindian myths connected, in hindsight, with bigfoot may have originated with ground sloths, but he did not suggest that such an animal still survived in North America.[11]

Proponent Ben S. Roesch examined this theory in Animals & Men in 1996, arguing that a shaggy-haired ground sloth seen walking upright might "inspire thoughts of sasquatch in some frightened human who accidentally stumbled across it". As a precedent for ground sloths being mistaken for primates, Roesch cites the Brazilian mapinguari, which was frequently called the "Brazilian Bigfoot," but which is now more often speculated to be a ground sloth;[12] in one mapinguari sighting, an animal described as a "giant monkey" was found to have left clawed tracks, something impossible for a primate. The mapinguari is also said to be extremely foul-smelling, and Roesch discovered that approximately 140 bigfoot sightings described a nauseating or overwhelming stench.[12]

Roesch did not suggest that all, or even the majority of, bigfoot sightings could be explained by ground sloths; according to him, only a small percentage of sightings, most especially those which describe the animal as foul-smelling, might refer to ground sloths. Problematically, Roger Patterson described the bigfoot he allegedly recorded as smelling like a "dog rolling in wet manure," but the Patterson-Gimlin film definitely does not depict a ground sloth.[12] Ground sloths such as Megalonyx jeffersoni have also been suggested as explanations for North American cryptids such as the saytoechin, gorps, and giant squirrels.

Similar cryptids[]

  • The Fouke monster
  • The Ohio grassman
  • The skunk ape

See also[]

Further cryptozoological reading[]

  • Coleman, Loren & Huyghe, Patrick (1999) Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, & Other Mystery Primates Worldwide
  • Redfern, Nick (2015) The Bigfoot Book: The Encyclopedia of Sasquatch, Yeti and Cryptid Primates

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 Eberhart, George (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 Coleman, Loren & Clark, Jerome (1999) Cryptozoology A to Z
  3. Redfern, Nick (2015) The Bigfoot Book: The Encyclopedia of Sasquatch, Yeti and Cryptid Primates
  4. Navarrete, Martín Fernández (1880) Colección de los viages y descubrimientos que hieieron
  5. Champlain, Samuel de (1603) Des sauvages
  6. Faragher, John Mack (1992) Daniel Boone – The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer
  7. Cryptomundo >> Recurrence of Individual Sasquatches
  8. Rough Draft of Amendments to Cryptozoological Checklist located online
  9. Buhs, Joshua Bluh (2009) Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9780226502151
  10. Daegling, David J. (2004) Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend, Rowman Altamira, ISBN 9780759105393
  11. Oren, David "Does the Endangered Xenarthran Fauna of Amazonia Include Remnant Ground Sloths?" Xenarthra (2001)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Roesch, Ben S. "Ground Sloth Survival in North America", Animals & Men 11 (1996)