Believers in its existence contend that such an animal, or close relatives of it, may be found around the world under different regional names, such as the Yeti of Tibet and Nepal, the Yeren of mainland China, the Orang Pendek of Indonesia, and the Yowie of Australia.
Bigfoot is one of the more famous examples of cryptozoology. The scientific community considers the Bigfoot legend to be a combination of folklore, misidentified animals, and hoaxes. Despite its dubious status, Bigfoot has become a popular symbol (see Bigfoot in popular culture).
Bigfoot is described in reports as being an ape between tall weighing in excess of 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 have claimed to have encountered it. The enormous footprints for which it is named have been as large as long and 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 four toes and claws. Proponents have also claimed the creatures to be mainly nocturnal and omnivorous.
Sightings of Bigfoot are reported mainly in the Pacific Northwest but there are also reports in every other state in the United States and many other regions of the world. Cryptozoologist John Willison Green has postulated that Bigfoot is a worldwide phenomenon.
Most members of the Lummi would be able to tell a tale about Ts'emekwes, the local version of Bigfoot. The stories were similar to each other in terms of the general descriptions of Ts'emekwes, but details about the creature's diet and activities differed between the stories of different families.
Some regional versions contained more nefarious creatures. The stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai were a nocturnal race that children were told not to say the names of lest the monsters hear and come to carry off a person—sometimes to be killed. In 1847, Paul Kane reported stories by the native people about skoocooms: a race of cannibalistic wild men living on the peak of Mount St. Helens.
Less menacing versions such as the one recorded by Reverend Elkanah Walker exist. In 1840, Walker, a Protestant missionary, recorded stories of giants among the Native Americans living in Spokane, Washington. The Indians claimed that these giants lived on the peaks of nearby mountains and stole salmon from the fishermen's nets.
Not all of these creatures were viewed as animals. The skoocooms appear to have been regarded as supernatural, rather than natural.
The local legends were combined together by J. W. Burns in a series of Canadian newspaper articles in the 1920s. Each language had its own name for the local version. Many names meant something along the lines of "wild man" or "hairy man" although other names described common actions it was said to perform (e.g. eating clams). Burns coined the term Sasquatch, which is from the Halkomelem sésquac meaning "wild man", and used it in his articles to describe a hypothetical single type of creature reflected in these various stories. Burns's articles popularized both the legend and its new name, making it well known in western Canada before it gained popularity in the United States.
The notoriety of ape-men grew over the decade, culminating in 1958 when large footprints were found in Humboldt County, California by bulldozer operator Gerold Crew. Sets of large tracks appeared multiple times around a road-construction site in Bluff Creek. After not being taken seriously about what he was seeing, Crew brought in his friend, Bob Titmus, to cast the prints in plaster. The story was published in the Humboldt Times along with a photo of Crew holding one of the casts. The article's author, Andrew Genzoli, titled the piece "Bigfoot", after the footprints. Sasquatch received a new name and gained international attention when the story was picked up by the Associated Press. Ray Wallace, who was at the site at the time the footprints appeared, was later attributed with making the name-sake footprints by his family shortly after his death.
The year 1958 was a watershed not just for the Bigfoot story itself but also for the culture that surrounds it. The first Bigfoot hunters began following the discovery of footprints at Bluff Creek. Tom Slick, who had previously funded searches for Yeti in the Himalayas earlier in the decade, organized searches for Bigfoot in the area around Bluff Creek.
As Bigfoot has become more well known, becoming a phenomenon in popular culture, sightings have spread throughout North America. In addition to the original Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes region and the Southeastern United States both have many reports of Bigfoot sightings.
There has been a recent upsurge in televised entertainment concerning Bigfoot. Among these is the Monster Quest series, which has had shows on Bigfoot multiple times, and Destination Truth, which has had shows on both Bigfoot and similar cryptids. A new series about the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) is slated to begin production in the Spring of 2009.
The Gigantopithecus hypothesis is generally considered entirely speculative. As the only known fossils are of its mandible and teeth, there is some uncertainty about Gigantopithecus's locomotion. Krantz has argued, based on his extrapolation of the shape of its mandible, that Gigantopithecus blacki could have been bipedal. However, the relevant part of mandible is not present in any fossils. The mainstream view is that Gigantopithecus was quadrupedal, and it has been argued that Gigantopithecus's enormous mass would have made it difficult for it to adopt a bipedal gait.
Matt Cartmill presents another problem with the Gigantopithecus hypothesis: "The trouble with this account is that Gigantopithecus was not a hominin and maybe not even a crown-group hominoid; yet the physical evidence implies that Bigfoot is an upright biped with buttocks and a long, stout, permanently adducted hallux. These are hominin autapomorphies, not found in other mammals or other bipeds. It seems unlikely that Gigantopithecus would have evolved these uniquely hominin traits in parallel.
Bernard G. Campbellin wrote: "That Gigantopithecus is in fact extinct has been questioned by those who believe it survives as the Yeti of the Himalayas and the Sasquatch of the north-west American coast. But the evidence for these creatures is not convincing.
Bigfoot sightings or footprints are often demonstrably hoaxes. Author Jerome Clark argues that the "Jacko" affair, involving an 1884 newspaper report of an apelike creature captured in British Columbia was a hoax. Citing research by John Green, who found that several contemporary British Columbia newspapers regarded the alleged capture as very dubious, Clark notes that the New Westminster, British Columbia Mainland Guardian wrote, "Absurdity is written on the face of it.
On July 14, 2005, Tom Biscardi, a long-time Bigfoot enthusiast and CEO of Searching for Bigfoot Inc., appeared on the Coast to Coast AM radio show and announced that he was "98% sure that his group will be able to capture a Bigfoot which they have been tracking in the Happy Camp, California area." A month later, Biscardi announced on the same radio show that he had access to a captured Bigfoot and was arranging a pay-per-view event for people to see it. Biscardi appeared on Coast to Coast AM again a few days later to announce that there was no captive Bigfoot. Biscardi blamed an unnamed woman for misleading him, and the show's audience for being so gullible.
On July 9, 2008, Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton posted a video to YouTube claiming that they had discovered the body of a deceased Sasquatch in a forest in northern Georgia. Tom Biscardi was contacted to investigate. Dyer and Whitton received $50,000 from Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., as a good faith gesture. The story of the men's claims was covered by many major news networks, including BBC, CNN, ABC News , and FOX News. Soon after a press conference, the alleged Bigfoot body arrived in a block of ice in a freezer, estimated to weigh about 1500 pounds, with the Searching for Bigfoot team. When the contents were thawed, it was discovered that the hair was not real, the head was hollow, and the feet were rubber.
Most scientists do not give the subject of Bigfoot's existence serious attention, given the history of dubious claims and outright hoaxes. Napier wrote that the mainstream scientific community's indifference stems primarily from "insufficient evidence ... it is hardly surprising that scientists prefer to investigate the probable rather than beat their heads against the wall of the faintly possible. Anthropologist David Daegling echoed this idea, citing a "remarkably limited amount of Sasquatch data that are amenable to scientific scrutiny. He advises that mainstream skeptics take a proactive position "to offer an alternative explanation. We have to explain why we see Bigfoot when there is no such animal.
In a 1996 USA Today article titled "Bigfoot Merely Amuses Most Scientists", Washington State zoologist John Crane is quoted as saying: "There is no such thing as Bigfoot. No data other than material that's clearly been fabricated has ever been presented."
George Schaller is one of a few prominent scientists who argue that Bigfoot reports are worthy of serious study. A 2003 Los Angeles Times story described Schaller as a "Bigfoot skeptic," but he also expressed his disapproval towards other scientists who do not examine evidence, yet "write [Bigfoot] off as a hoax or myth. I don't think that's fair." In a 2003 Denver Post article Schaller said that he is troubled that no Bigfoot remains have ever been uncovered, and no feces samples have been found to allow DNA testing. Schaller notes: "There have been so many sightings over the years, even if you throw out 95 percent of them, there ought to be some explanation for the rest. I think a hard-eyed look is absolutely essential." Napier argues that some "soft evidence" (i.e., eyewitness accounts, footprints, hair and droppings) 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.
Although most scientists find current evidence of Bigfoot unpersuasive, a handful of prominent experts have offered sympathetic opinions on the subject. In a 2002 interview on National Public Radio, Jane Goodall first publicly expressed her views on Bigfoot, by remarking, "Well now, you'll be amazed when I tell you that I'm sure that they exist... I've talked to so many Native Americans who all describe the same sounds, two who have seen them. I've probably got about, oh, thirty books that have come from different parts of the world, from China from, from all over the place....
Anthropologist Carleton S. Coon's posthumously published essay Why the Sasquatch Must Exist states, "Even before I read John Green's book Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us, first published in 1978, I accepted Sasquatch's existence. Coon examines the question from several angles, stating that he is confident only in ruling out a relict Neanderthal population as a viable candidate for Sasquatch reports.
In 2004, Henry Gee, editor of the prestigious magazine Nature, argued that creatures like Bigfoot deserved 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.