The extensive search for the elusive Yeti concluded recently with a surprising outcome—a solitary strand of hair that turned out to be from a horse, as revealed in a BBC Radio 4 program chronicling the Himalayan expedition.
Andrew Benfield, a writer, and his skeptical friend Richard Horsey, a political analyst, embarked on an extensive quest spanning India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan in pursuit of the mythical Yeti. Their explorations, encounters with locals, and tales heard during their journey culminated in the creation of the “Yeti,” a BBC Radio 4 series documenting their pursuit.
The series left audiences hanging in suspense in June with the disclosure of a mysterious hair obtained from an undisclosed source, awaiting DNA analysis. However, a subsequent bonus episode released on Oct. 20 uncovered that the analyzed hair belonged to a horse, which, as Benfield expressed, felt anticlimactic after years of dedicated exploration.
Despite the disappointing DNA outcome, Benfield emphasized that the hair revelation does not discredit the essence of their series or diminish the authenticity of the stories they gathered from the communities they visited. The allure of the Yeti, an ape-like creature steeped in centuries-old Himalayan lore, captured Western interest, especially following British mountaineer Eric Shipton’s photographs of enormous footprints upon his return from Everest in the 1950s. However, subsequent endeavors led by Westerners failed to substantiate the creature’s existence.
Benfield, driven by a desire to honor local accounts of the Yeti dismissed by previous explorers, was further inspired by Sir David Attenborough’s sentiments in a 2013 interview, suggesting the plausibility of the “Abominable Snowman mystery.” Seeking to explore firsthand accounts of the Yeti, he invited Horsey, a cognitive psychology Ph.D., to join him, hoping to win over his skeptical companion.
The BBC got involved in 2022 as the duo ventured to Bhutan’s Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, where they encountered a narrative that moved Horsey from skepticism and acquired the enigmatic hair believed to belong to the Yeti. However, DNA analysis by evolutionary biologist Charlotte Lindqvist confirmed the hair’s origin from an Altai horse breed, corroborating the hair’s mundane nature rather than its mythical one.
Despite the genetic revelation, Benfield maintains possession of the remaining hair segment, contemplating its significance, while underscoring the vastness and enigmatic aura of the Himalayas, from where stories of the Yeti originate. Horsey, acknowledging the significance of the Yeti in the lives of locals, remarked on its symbolic importance in their cultural tapestry rather than its factual existence.
Accounts like those detailed by Bhutanese writer Tshering Tashi in a 2020 article for Kuensel Online underscore the deep-seated belief in the Yeti within Bhutanese culture, where locals affirm its existence without a pressing need for concrete evidence.