by T. Peter Park
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman and science writer & Fortean researcher Patrick Huyghe have now updated their classic The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide (New York: Avon Books, 1999). They have just published The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates (New York & San Antonio: Anomalist Books, 2006; xvii, 205 pp.; ISBN # 1933665122; US $14.00, UK £ 8.50). It’s a revised edition of their 1999 book, with a slightly shorter title, a complete index, a Preface serving as an update, and Errata correcting errors and misprints in the original edition.
Like their original 1999 edition, it has drawings and range maps by Harry Trumbore, and describes nine basic main types or categories of unknown hominids and other mystery primates: Neo-Giants, True Giants, Marked Hominids, Neandertaloids, Erectus Hominids, Proto-Pygmies, Unknown Pongids, Giant Monkeys, and Merbeings. The front cover, which in 1999 showed a still from Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin’s 1967 Bigfoot film, now carries Richard Klyver’s illustration of Homo floresiensis.
In their Preface, Coleman and Huyghe summarize new primate and hominid discoveries since 1999–including, of course, the discoveries, from late 2004 onward, of the 3-foot-tall Homo floresiensis “Hobbits” living on Indonesia’s Flores Island as recently as 13,000 years ago–who perhaps lived on into modern times as the small, hairy ebu gogo dwarfs of Flores Island folklore. They also summarize discoveries of new species of lemurs and monkeys, the late 2005-early 2006 sightings of 10-foot-tall orang dalam “Bigfoot” near Johor, Malaysia, the sightings of a previously unknown species of giant ape (the bili) with both chimpanzee and gorilla traits in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the 2001 sighings of a 3-foot-tall 3-toed primate resembling Madagascar’s small hairy aggressive kalanoro by pygmies in Cameroon. Returning for a moment to Homo floresiensis, they note that while the “Hobbits” have often been connected in the media with Sumatra’s orang pendek, a more relevant connection may be with the more fully manlike types, such as Sri Lanka’s nittaewo.
By retaining their 1999 classification of nine main basic types of mystery primates, Coleman and Huyghe have continued the most path-breaking though initially controversial feature of their original edition. With their nine categories, they tried to bring sense and order out of a chaos of bewilderingly different hairy man-like and ape-like creatures usually lumped together by the media as “Bigfoot,” “Sasquatch,” “Yeti,” or “Abominable Snowman.” Aside from being hairy, erect, and somewhat human-like or ape-like in general appearance, mystery hominids reported world-wide display a great variety in size (ranging from 10- or 12-foot-tall giants to 2- or 3-foot-tall dwarfs), body build, facial features, hair form and color, number and configuration of toes, behavior, presence or absence of cultural traits like tools, clothing, or language, etc., and are known by countless local native names. Some seem to be quite clearly primitive “men” (and “women”) of some sort, reminiscent of palaeontologists’ reconstructions of the appearance and behavior of Homo erectus or Homo neandertalensis, while others seem to be just as definitely unknown species of apes (“unknown pongids”). It only does the public a disservice and creates confusion to indiscriminately call them “Bigfoot” or “Yeti.” There is really very little actual resemblance between, say, the classic North American Pacific Northwest “Bigfoot” or Himalayan “Yeti” and the Central Asian almas, Caucasus kaptar, Sri Lankan nittaewo, Sumatran orang pendek, or Flores ebu gogo.
A couple of their mystery primate categories, they admit, are rather speculative, and were understandably very controversial–especially their Merbeings. They also were and are rather original in explaining “mystery kangaroos” as really Giant Monkeys. Similarly, they interpret “Lizard-Men” as really fresh-water Merbeings, with matted hair that looks superficially scaly. Their Merbeings, I myself still feel as I originally felt in 1999, are perhaps their weakest category–not in the sense of being very doubtfuly real as creatures, but in the sense of being perhaps only doubtfully or tenuously primates. Also, their marine and fresh-water Merbeings seem too different to belong to the same mammalian family or even order. Actually, I suspect their fresh-water Merbeings may well be semi-aquatic primates, perhaps Prosimians related to the loris and potto as they suggest, while the marine Merbeings may lie outside the primate order altogether–unless one accepts the “Aquatic Ape” theory of human evolution.
Still, all in all, The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates is an excellent overview of the topic–and an indispenable MUST for any cryptozoological or Fortean collection!