Bigfoot is one of several extremely large ape-like creatures periodically reported to have been sighted at different locations around the world and going by a variety of names such as “Sasquatch”, “Yeti” and ”The Abominable Snowman”.
The name “Bigfoot” is typically used in reference to sightings in northern California. Reports vary widely in their description of Bigfoot, though most describe a bipedal humanoid creature, 2-3m in height and covered in dark brown fur. The creature’s big feet (from which it gets its name) range greatly in size in purported footprints, with some more than 50cm long.
The chief evidence for the existence of Bigfoot consists of several hundred recorded sightings, many purported footprints, and scattered photographic evidence. The name “Bigfoot”, and the beginnings of the Bigfoot legend, date to footprints found in California in 1958. Most famous is the Patterson-Gimlin film from 1967, depicting a one-minute encounter with a “Bigfoot”. Proponents argue that the number of sightings and footprint casts rules out the possibility of a hoax.
The scientific community overwhelmingly rejects the claims of an uncatalogued hominid living in North America. Most reported sightings can easily be explained as misidentification of bears or other wildlife. An adult bear on its hind legs has approximately the same dimensions as the reported “ape”, and most sightings occur in a common bear habitat. In addition, the diversity of shapes, sizes, and other features of the claimed Bigfoot footprints shows that the data is likely a result of multiple hoaxes and misidentifications rather than the existence of any single species. In addition, the large number of such animals that would be necessary to constitute a breeding population would make it difficult for them to so effectively hide from researchers.
The most famous pieces of evidence for Bigfoot are almost certainly fabrications. The 1958 footprints were revealed in 2002 to have been a hoax perpetrated by an individual named Ray Wallace. His family came forward after his death with the carved wooden feet he used to make the footprints. In addition, Bob Heironimus admitted to have worn an ape-suit for the making of the Patterson-Gimlin film. Despite these admissions, Bigfoot advocates remain set in their beliefs, pointing to inconsistencies in the confessors’ stories, and claiming the confessions are the true hoax.
The evidence for Bigfoot is, at best, ambiguous. If there really was such a creature living in North America, the evidence for it would undoubtedly be overwhelming. No (unfaked) Bigfoot body has ever been found, nor any evidence of Bigfoot families, bones, excrement, or other material artifacts. Purported fur samples are indistinguishable from human hair or the fur of common animals – confirmed by DNA testing. And, even in this age of ubiquitous digital cameras and video recorders, no reliable photographic evidence has ever been provided.
The evidence in favour of Bigfoot can be readily explained by skeptics; the failure to find more evidence is far harder for advocates to explain.