The possible existence of a “Bigfoot” has long been in the public consciousness. Researchers have wondered what form it takes, whether it belongs to an entire species, and whether it exists at all. There are many unique ideas to explain the mystery, but they must be analyzed to consider the quantity and quality of evidence. Do these explanations have any analytical support, and do they make or seem plausible by realistic standards? Above all else, the sources of any evidence must be trustworthy. These criteria will be used to evaluate the ideas that Bigfoot is a descendant of the giant ground sloth, that the creatures exist and their bones have been found but misinterpreted by humans, that the species is a highly evolved form of apes but differing from humans, and that Bigfoot doesn’t exist at all and is a product of misidentification, imagination, and hoaxes.
Of these hypotheses, one of the least supported but most interesting is the idea that Bigfoot is part of the Sloth species family, particularly a descendant of the giant ground sloth. Much of the supporting evidence is focused on the physical traits that overlap between Bigfoot and modern sloths. Some of their qualities could be important for a theoretical Bigfoot species to exist and stay hidden in the vast regions where sightings occur. ‘The sloths of today are amazing mammalians; the adaptions they have developed through evolution have given them the ability to survive in an environment which can sometimes lack the necessary nutrition’ (Bravo). A Bigfoot could go long periods without being sighted hunting because ‘Sloths have developed large, specialized, slow-acting stomachs with multiple compartments’ whose ‘digestive process can take a month or more to complete’ (Bravo). Additionally, according to most sightings, the Bigfoot creature takes a leisurely pace without darting away. ‘Sloths have such slow metabolism that any type of high energetic movements would cause them to expend too much energy and bring them to exhaustion very quickly’ (Bravo). In fact, a surprising piece of evidence for this animal connection is the fact that no sightings have ever described genitalia, and coincidentally male members of the mammal superorder Xenarthra possess internal reproductive organs. While this hypothesis is not widely acknowledged, it contains more accurate connections between the species traits than other more common theories, such as the possibility that Bigfoot sightings are simply upright black bears. Although these associations are thoughtful, they are not supported by any evidence – they are just one researcher’s personal theory from piecing together clues and characteristics. There is no hard proof and only one personal theory to support this idea. The associations make sense but might be countered by other unspecified aspects that don’t match between Bigfoot and sloths. The theory suggests that Bigfoot is an existing mammal species rather than some alien, magical creature, or altered human, making it more realistic than many theories. The source is only a Bigfoot hobbyist, which makes it not particularly reputable or supported by any evidence (Bravo).
A less creative but more possible explanation is that Bigfoot exists in the form of an altered humanoid and that many of its bones have been discovered but are frequently misattributed to humans. There are dozens of reports of bone findings that are too unusual or oversized to be explained as human remains. Many of these seemed impossible to belong to any human, and yet they were always assumed to be an extreme human specimen. Often, they were given to an Indian tribe for burial, with the antiquated idea that such Native Americans could reach very strange or expanded sizes. “Scientists studying the bones, knowing that Native Americans are the only known ancient peoples of North America, can only classify these bones by referencing known indigenous species of man, irrespective of the anatomical features not being a match” (Dover). Several recent unexplained bone discoveries were given to Bigfoot research organizations and are still being analyzed. Many reports, mostly historic, claim the finding of massive or strange human-like bones, and as a result, there’s a significant amount of potential evidence. However, these sources are primarily outdated or anecdotal, and cannot be verified. The more modern cases have the potential to be analyzed but are still held by Bigfoot organizations for years without any statement, hurting the possibility that they contain anything for Bigfoot hobbyists to get excited about. For example, a 2008 femur found in Oregon was sent to the Ketchum Bigfoot DNA project; “however, for whatever reason, the bone was not used in the study” (Dover). Another supposed Bigfoot bone, a tooth, was found in California in 2002 and also resides with the Ketchum project, “but it has not yet been tested” (Dover). The theory doesn’t seem realistic because it begins with the assumption that Bigfoot exists and seeks to support that with unexplained findings that have no remaining hard evidence, despite being physical discoveries. The sources of evidence, like most sightings, are varied and usually subjective recounts (Dover).
Although less exciting, it seems more plausible that a Bigfoot species is simply a different evolution from the common ape. An ancient ape species called Gigantopithecus was discovered in 1935 by Ralph von Koenigswald upon the surprise finding of a large molar for sale in Hong Kong, and perhaps this is the ancestor of a larger ape-like creature that deviated from Homo erectus. “Gigantopithecus was closely related to modern orangutans and Sivapithecus, an ape that lived in Asia about 12 to 8 million years ago” (Wayman). Most accounts of Bigfoot agree that it resembles an ape in many ways but is different enough to immediately tell that it is neither ape nor human; therefore, it seems reasonable to examine the varied ancestry of primates and the larger ancient specimens. This massive ape relates to the concept of Bigfoot in its size and primate traits and possibly evolved in different regions from other known ape descendants. It may have developed to stay hidden and exist in vast and harsh climates, escaping frequent detection, much like the traits of Sloths as mentioned earlier. Little hard evidence exists for this claim, other than the idea that Bigfoot is clearly related to apes. The best support for this theory is that it’s by far the most realistic if Bigfoot indeed exists. There are countless sightings that cite an ape-like creature, but those are weak evidence at best. Even Bigfoot researchers doubt this possibility, as “Bigfoot is reported to be a swift, agile, upright walker – not a lumbering, 1,200-pound quadruped” (Wayman).
Although many individuals believe in the existence of a Bigfoot, it likely does not exist at all, and the beliefs come from misidentifications or pure imagination and are perpetuated by hoaxes. Vast amounts of evidence have been disproven while so many other examples have been revealed as hoaxes. One source of countless false footprints, Ray Wallace, was outed as a hoax-maker by his son, who explained how “he used a 16-inch model of a human foot a friend carved from alder wood to leave tracks” (Martelle). Hundreds of individual Bigfoot reports exist, but almost all of them are secondhand stories or are such poor quality that they cannot be trusted at all. In an article from The Skeptical Inquirer, Benjamin Radford explains that “eyewitness accounts and anecdotes comprise the bulk of Bigfoot evidence” and that this evidence is the poorest. “Reports usually take place in uncontrolled settings and are made by untrained, varied observers. People are generally poor eyewitnesses and can mistake known animals for supposed cryptids [unknown animals] or poorly recall the details of their sighting” (Radford). Even the most famous piece of evidence, the short film by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, is found lacking after close analysis, and “there is little doubt that the scientific evidence taken collectively points to a hoax of some kind” (Napier 89-96). The theory that Bigfoot is a result of hoaxes and imprecise perception is the most realistic and keeps becoming more supported as years pass without any modern images or findings confirming the possibility of Bigfoot. It is difficult to imagine with the omnipresence of cameras and the advanced research capabilities in the world today that Bigfoot could still escape detection entirely while theories rely on shaky or unlikely evidence. Trustworthy and scientific sources have been involved in disproving many Bigfoot theories, more than the creators of the theories themselves.
After all the evidence is considered, pertaining to theories that Bigfoot is a giant Sloth, a humanoid whose bones have been mistaken for human, or the descendant of an ancient ape, it seems clear that too little support exists for the existence of such a mysterious creature. There is not enough evidence to support the idea that Bigfoot exists in any form, and so much has been categorically disproven. Unusual primate or humanoid sightings have existed throughout history likely from imagination and lack of scientific knowledge, and the theory of a specific creature called Bigfoot gained support from famous a famous but dubious video recording. The resulting popularity gained momentum as more individuals began to think they saw what they were already looking for. This confusion about reality has been pushed by the creation of many hoaxes, some of which have been self-admitted to be a fabrication by their own creators. Confirmation bias and false evidence prolonged the belief in a Bigfoot even in modern years when it should be impossible for such a mystery to remain completely unseen and unconfirmed. Sightings of magical and fantastic beasts have existed throughout all of history, and those of a giant ape-like humanoid was given public awareness by hoaxes, misidentifications, and wishful imaginations. After an overwhelming lack of evidence against all efforts, it remains that Bigfoot is not the offspring of Sloths, humans, or apes, but of human minds.
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