But a leading geneticist believes he has found evidence to prove that it – or rather she – could have been more than a myth.
Professor Bryan Sykes of the University of Oxford claims a towering woman named Zana who lived in 19th Century Russia – and appeared to be ‘half human, half ape’ – could have been the fabled yeti.
Witnesses described the six-foot, six-inches tall woman discovered in the Caucasus mountains between Georgia and Russia as having ‘all the characteristics of a wild animal’ – and covered in thick auburn hair.
OK, dodgy historical claims about yeti, check.
Famously known as the ape woman, Zana had at least four children by local men and some of her descendants still live in the region, the Times reported.
Sykes made an astonishing discovery when he carried out saliva tests on six of her living relatives and the tooth of her deceased son Khwit.
Excellent, so proof that she was fertile with human beings….and that those children were themselves fertile. Under the usual standards this means that she was a human being. Sure, people get a little more sophisticated about this but a general description of a species is that if you’re fertile, and the children of sucm matings are fertile, then those doing the mating are members of the same species.
Thus, that there are descendants to test the DNA of shows that she was a human. Mebbe an odd one but one all the same.
Yes, this definition does get tested when we note that some ligers and tigrons can be fertile and so on, the very occasional hinny is but not mule etc. But gorillas and chimps and humans are not cross fertile. It’s not therefore an entirely strict dividing line but it is a useful one.