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Page last updated at 11:20 GMT, Monday, 13 October 2008 12:20 UK

'Yeti hairs' belong to a goat

By Alastair Lawson
BBC News

Himalayan goral
The goral goat - it took several scientific tests to make the connection

Scientists in the US who have examined hairs claimed to belong to a yeti in India say that in fact they belong to a species of Himalayan goat.

They say that DNA tests on the hairs - obtained from the north-east Indian state of Meghalaya - show that they are from a goat known as a Himalayan Goral.

The rough-haired creature has a grey-brown coat and is between 95-130cm (37-51in) in length.

It was not previously thought to roam so far south of its known habitat.

Those who believe in the existence of the little known Indian version of the legendary yeti - or abominable snow man - say it is an ape-like creature called mande barung - or forest man.

The BBC was given the hairs by passionate yeti believer Dipu Marak, who retrieved them from a site in dense jungle after the mande barung was allegedly seen by a forester for three days in a row in 2003.

'Interesting result'

"We always knew that the link between the sightings of the Indian yeti and the finding of the hairs was purely circumstantial," said ape expert Ian Redmond who carried out a preliminary series of tests on the hairs earlier this year which proved inconclusive.

Ian Redmond
We may not have found a lowland yeti but we have still made a modest discovery
Ian Redmond

"Nevertheless, the DNA test is an interesting result because the reported location where this sample was collected is way south of the published distribution maps of the Goral species, which is said to live between 1,000 to 4,000 metres up in the Himalayas.

"Perhaps we have a more modest discovery - extending the known range of the goral rather than confirming the existence of the lowland yeti," he said.

Mr Marak said that the hairs could have provided compelling evidence of the existence of a black and grey ape-like animal which stands about 3m (nearly 10ft) tall.

"While these results are discouraging, it does not affect my firm conviction that there is a yeti-like creature out there," he said. "It has been seen too often for it to be dismissed as nothing more than a myth."

'Startling resemblance'

In recent years different witnesses in the West, South and East Garo hills of Meghalaya say that they have seen the creature, which Mr Marak estimates to weighs about 300kg (660lb) and is herbivorous, surviving on fruit, roots and tree bark.

Artisit's impression of the Mande barung of Meghalaya

Scientists said that initial microscopic tests on the hairs were "potentially very exciting" as they bore a "startling resemblance" to similar suspected yeti hairs collected by Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary.

After the microscope tests, the hairs were sent to a lab in the US for DNA analysis. By a "process of elimination" the hairs from India were compared with hairs from other animals known to live in the area around the Garo hills.

The first series of tests were carried out at Oxford Brookes University in central England with award-winning primatologist Anna Nekaris and microscopy expert Jon Wells from the university's anthropology department.

Using some of the most sophisticated microscopes in Britain, the hairs were magnified up to 200 times and then compared with a database of other hairs provided to Mr Redmond from Oxford's Natural History Museum and the primatology department at Oxford Brookes University.

After the tests were completed, Mr Redmond - who is also a senior consultant for the UN's Great Ape Survival Project - and Ms Nekaris were able to rule out the "obvious candidates" to whom the hairs might belong.

However the hairs were then sent to the US for further tests where the link with the goral goat was established.

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Dipu Marak shows what he believes are the yeti hairs




SEE ALSO
'Yeti hair' to get DNA analysis
25 Jul 08 |  South Asia
Scientists to test 'yeti hairs'
24 Jul 08 |  Oxfordshire
On the trail of the 'Indian yeti'
17 Jun 08 |  South Asia
Artist sketches yeti 'photofit'
03 Jun 08 |  Derbyshire
'Yeti prints' found near Everest
01 Dec 07 |  South Asia
Evidence of 'jungle yeti' found
12 Oct 04 |  Manchester

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