Bigfoot Encounters

What do we know about Sasquatch hair, really?

© Bobbie Short …
“….the science of hair analysis is rather inexact
and the competence of the investigator varies greatly.”

What we know about the problem of ‘hair' presumptive for the Sasquatch in North America has been frustrating; there isn't a known Sasquatch specimen with which to make comparisons.

The first thing most of us in research read about as regards any hair analysis was printed in John Green's 1978 Book, Sasquatch, the Apes Among Us on page 284. On that page John explained a half dozen light colored hairs found in the 1960's by a government game guide named Wayne Twitchell that were subsequently sent to a laboratory in Los Angeles. There, Ray Pinker, a veteran of 36 years in police crime lab techniques examined the hairs issuing a statement that the hairs showed both animal and human characteristics; interestingly, they did not match any samples Pinker had in his collection. He said that they resembled animals hairs in showing a variation of color and thickness from the root to the tip, whereas human hair is uniform in color and thickness, but that the scale pattern on the outside of the shaft was similar to that of human hair and that there was no continuous medulla, or core visible in the center as would be the case with almost all animal hairs. There were both coarse outer hairs and fine hairs from an undercoat.¹ On the two pages cited, John relates what a laborious and thankless task identifying hairs really is and how quickly he lost interest in the process.

Then in 1992, Dr. Grover S. Krantz published Big Foot-Prints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Sasquatch. On page 128 he writes:
“It is now possible to extract DNA from a hair sample to determine the species, or even exact individual if there is a known specimen for comparison. This is easiest done with a follicle, but just a hair shaft will often suffice.” 

On the issue of Sasquatch hairs, Dr. John Bindernagel writes in his book North America's Great Ape, the Sasquatch,”  “Hair attributed to Sasquatches has been recovered from apparent Sasquatch beds, shrubbery, fences and trees where sightings have occurred.  Some samples have been examined microscopically for physical characteristics, which can be compared with known reference material from bears, apes, and humans. At least one such sample has been identified as coming from a higher primate, but could not be matched with those from any known species.”  Here Bindernagel cites his source as pg 125 of the late Grover Krantz's book, in what appears to be circular theorem we read Krantz's words again, “Hair samples are the commonest of what I call bodily scraps.  Some of these have been examined by hair expert and pronounced to be of an unknown animal and in a few cases even pinned down to being from a high primate.  Unfortunately for these earlier studies, the science of hair analysis is rather inexact and the competence of the investigator varies greatly.”  Operative words: “the science of hair analysis is rather inexact and the competence of the investigator varies greatly.”  If, in the early days, hairs were labeled Bigfoot, it is unfortunate and misleading without a specimen and are we really wasting our time chasing down hairs when no progress has been made to speak of since 1978. The only way to positively identify a Sasquatch hair is to match it with a known sample.

Walter Birkby at the University of Arizona has some interesting hairs that he obtained from the late Bob Titmus. Birkby was fairly sure they were Sasquatch hairs. They are the hairs are of a higher primate in his judgment and cannot quite be matched with any known species.  “Zhou Guoxing, at the Natural History Museum in Beijing, China once gave me a reddish hair that he was told came from a yeren (Chinese wildman)" said Krantz. Walter Birkby examined it and informed me that it was human -- a blond Caucasian hair that had been artificially dyed red." (Krantz)

Anthropologist Dr. Carleton S. Coon, Ph.D., in his paper, "Why There Has to Be a Sasquatch" wrote: "Professor Stephen I Rosen of the University of Maryland has identified hair as that of a previously unknown primate -- and he has hair on file for most of the living primates of the world. He has given me permission to state that its scale pattern is primate, its pigment dense and black like that of a lowland gorilla, and its internal structure "unusual." This last refers to the medulla of the hair strand, which is quite variable among the living races of man. On this substantially impeccable evidence we may be justified to state that a primate other than man, which is either a pongid (ape), or hominid (kind of man) is alive in Washington. The blood that came with the hair has been examined by a professional in another institution. A newspaper report quotes him as saying that his sample is primate, possible human, but too degraded for further speculation. Now that we are on relatively stable scientific ground, and while we await other statements from experts in hair and blood analysis, tooth analysis, or the dissection of a cadaver, it seems sound enough to speculate on the zoological classification of our subject." (full paper: )

In November 1995 tufts of hair known as the 'Sumerlin hairs' were found in the Blue Mountains of Washington State, consisting of a dozen strands. These hair samples were sent to Dr. Paul Fuerst, a professor of molecular genetics at Ohio State University. Fuerst and a graduate student in forensic sciences, Jamie Austin used a DNA testing procedure developed by the FBI for analysis of hair strands which lacked the root follicles normally needed for identification. After some badgering, I was finally given a rather impolite response from Dr. Frank Poirier, then chairman of the Dept. of Anthropology who offered only this, "I don't expect anything to happen because I'm pretty skeptical about this; but good science requires some wild goose chases from time to time
but these two batches of hair sent to us had the best possibility of being real."  The creatures reportedly were observed at a distance of about 100 feet in a dense, dark forest.  "After the creatures left, they picked up hair from the locale, as well as footprints and knuckle prints," Poirier said.  Dr. Paul Fuerst, at the time associate professor of molecular genetics at Ohio State University said the prints had the best possibility of being real. We never did get an accounting of the Sumerlin hairs from Ohio State other than a terse “unknown primate.” ²

Dr. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine, one of the world's leading experts on DNA analysis has been linked to the problems with homin hairs, but to my knowledge, he has not examined hairs presumptive for the North American Sasquatch. The hairs Sykes examined were obtained by zoologist Dr. Rob McCall who was along on the Bhutanese expedition in 2001. If I remember rightly, McCall found hair evidence in the hollow of a cedar tree and at the time, took them to the UK for DNA analysis by Sykes. Of the yeti hairs found in Bhutan, in April of that year, Sykes said, "We found some DNA in it, but we don't know what it is. It's not a human, not a bear nor anything else we have so far been able to identify. It's a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn't recognize before.” ³

In Sumatra in 2004, long strands of hair beside a tiny human-like footprint near Gung Tujuh, SE Asia's largest freshwater Lake surrounded by tropical rain forests was thought to belong to the elusive Orang Pendek. Three cryptozoologists led by Adam Davies made the discovery, cast the footprints & passed the hairs onto world renowned hair expert, Dr. Hans Brunner who compared the hairs to those of other known inhabitants of the Sumatran interior including species of tapir, non-human primates and bears but he was unable to match the hairs to any known mammal. Brunner spent some 18 months analyzing the DNA found in the hair, finally concluding they match no known animal; the tracks however were definitely the imprints of a primate. Cambridge University primatologist Dr. David Chivers actually confirmed Brunner's findings and it was my understanding in 2004 that the two men are about to publish a paper on the subject. I have not seen it as yet. (Manchester Online)

Since 1996, former Oregon resident, Dr. W. Henner Fahrenbach has had the only extensive collection of hairs presumptive for Sasquatch in the USA and in that collection of animal hairs; human & non-human primate hairs had been accumulated. Fahrenbach was quoted as saying his samples, presumably Sasquatch hairs, varied from “3 to 15 inches in length; most samples are under 90 microns in diameter   (90 microns = 0.00354330709 of an inch) and most all have a reddish tinge under the microscope.  Interestingly, these hairs that are presumptive for Sasquatch generally lack a medulla. The kicker is that we have found human hair with similar characteristics …yes confusing.  The only way to identify a hair is to compare it with known samples.  Uncontaminated hair samples presumed to be Sasquatch hairs can still be sent to Dr. Fahrenbach to be analyzed. His address is Laboratory of Microscopy, 6835 E. Las Animas Trail, Gold Canyon, Arizona 85118

In the past, we were told that the mtDNA generally fragmented too easily to allow for sequencing, but I understand there is an updated process that facilitates the extraction of follicular material from the hair, that is, if it is present in the samples and there is no contamination. I was pleased to read in Paulides & Pratt's 2009 book, Tribal Bigfoot, page 372-3 of the relatively new PowerPlex™ 16 test kit, I urge you to review the letter from the laboratory on those pages. One encouraging sentence in that letter reads, “…at this time it cannot be ruled out that this could be DNA from an undocumented species.”  

One final note regarding Sasquatch hair was added to this work on November 7, 2009, and it came from Dmitri Bayanov in Moscow:
"A friend wrote me that Bigfoot hair "doesn't follow normal characteristics associated with other primates, why? Nobody knows!" So I consulted Dr. Fahrenbach and received this advice:

Dear Dmitri,

"The probable reason that no unfragmented DNA can be extracted from BF hair is probably the absence of a medulla, which normally - and in most human hairs - contains cells with more preserved interiors and less keratinization. Hair normally falls out in the telogen stage, when the root has totally involuted. A good root is only found when the hair has been pulled out forcibly in the anagen, or fully growing stage. I wouldn't make a big deal out of the BF hair being all that different from other primate hair, since many human scalp hairs have no medulla either, but then they don't have other attributes of sasquatch hair, such as the ubiquitous reddish tinge. Incidentally, much cattle hair is also devoid of a medulla, though a fragmentary one is more common." ... W. Henner Fahrenbach, Ph.D. AZ

Moving on, -a quick word search of my database showed hair reported in many colors, the predominant color is, of course, black. Other colors cropped up less often with Texas leading the data with several gray-white or off white Sasquatch reports. Ken Joholske filed his report back in 2002 and in the course of that exchange I learned of another sighting of an off-white Sasquatch that chased a group of kids off a bike path not far from Jamestown, New York; two more white BF's are listed as seen in Ohio. The many colors in the data reminded me of the Spirit bear colorings, AKA the Kermode bears of Valhalla in British Columbia just north of the Sunshine Coast.

The following colors are mentioned also in John Green's massive database: Red, auburn, black, brown, chocolate brown, blue-black, buckskin colored, blackish red, dark gray, grayish white, off-white, yellowish white, silver-back and one surprising piebald coloring with tobiano patterning, ….something those of us equine people can identify with easily because in horses, it's usually a two-tone coloring of black & white -  absolutely beautiful markings often with these two colors being expressed together in the tail and mane. One can only imagine how those two colors are expressed in a Sasquatch. That this occurs in a primate certainly must be a very unusual marking and may be another development that has arisen from breeding within a close society, clan or tribe as many of the Sasquatch problems must. It may also be that the white coloring against black hair is in reality the graying of the individual and not tobiano coloring at all.  

I discovered that there was no report to be found of a literal albino colored sasquatch in any database I had access too. The skin coloring beneath the hair was usually reported as Caucasian, olive, brown or Negroid. According to the thickness of the haired individual, hair becomes a beautiful natural sun blocking mechanism and against black hair is seen as white skin or Caucasian colored skin by contrast.

As a statistical model, the BFRO database turned out to be a useless tool to add to these statistics because there is no search capability on that website. Still, I was able to also determine from what I had to draw from that hair has been reported and described as curly, straight, wavy, short, long, medium length, wet, dry; and that is was thick, sparse, thin, heavy, fine, coarse, unruly, unkempt, dirty, smelled, was wild, oily looking, matted, silky and several accounts of having “hardly any hair at all.”

Shave off all that hair and you have a human body looking back at you…

So what are we in research to make of the varying degrees of body hair being reported during encounters?   The problem of body hair may be as simple as **Hypertrichosis, also known as 'werewolf syndrome,' which is characterized by excessive body hair in abnormal places on the human torso.

Hypertrichosis is a genetic disorder, extremely rare in humans because of the widely dispersed genetics we have to draw from; however, in a limited gene pool such as the pockets of Sasquatches in northern California (for example) -the gene pool is so dramatically limited making it highly possible that both parents, after generations of in-breeding in a closed society, most probably will carry this recessive gene & will show up in both male & female children in the Sasquatch population. In fact, I'm betting on that being the riddle of the hair issue. Shave off all that hair and you have a human body looking back at you…

In medical circles it is referred to as hypertrichosis lanuginose, which in simplified terminology means excessive hairiness of the body. For hundreds of years, societies have maintained a certain fascination with the bizarre and the unknown. In the past, persons with congenital disorders that cause excessive body-hair growth have been so dramatic and romanticized that those individuals with rare hypertrichosis syndrome were, at one time, a crowd-drawing money-making phenomena in many 19th century circus side-show acts. These individuals have in various places in the literature, been referred to as dog-men, hair-men, human Skye terriers, ape-men, werewolves, and Homo silvestris (Brandt, 1897; Felgenhauer, 1969).

Since the Middle Ages, hundreds of individuals with congenital hypertrichosis have been described, and according to the most recent estimates, approximately 334 cases are documented adequately and definitively in the literature (Baumeister). There are hundreds of other lesser cases of hypertrichosis that are undiagnosed.  

Women also develop hirsutism, growing *androgen dependent hair in places where men usually grow it. Women with hirsutism might grow hair on their upper lip, chest, chin and along the mandibular jaw line but typically this is caused by a female having an abnormal amount of testosterone in her system...or other male hormones and sometimes the hormonal imbalance is seen in conjunction with having inherited recessive genes from both parents for hypertrichosis. (Both parents must carry this gene in order for it to be expressed in their offspring, or not as is often the case, see Journal of Human Genetics in citation notes). When these factors are bred down through eons of time in a closed society, the current day results could end up with all members of a tribe expressing bodily hair in just about all areas including facial hair on females. I often wonder if this might be the case with the subject in the Patterson film – she sports a moustache, chin whiskers & quite thick facial hair…. is she the exception or the rule? I don't know; what I can tell you is that recent photographs taken in 2009 Canada show this same observable inherited characteristic in facial hair that flows along the mandibular jaw line on a Sasquatch there.

When during the course of human evolution, did humans shed their thicker primate coats? At some point, thick hair must have become more of a burden than an asset; -scientists have determined a number of potential answers as to how that came about. One theory proposes that early man might have been a water-dwelling ape, and less hair was better suited to his aqueous environment. Another theory explains it as an adaptation to prevent the spread of parasites, since they thrive in thicker hair, or fur if applicable. Others point to the milestone of bipedalism that occurred around two million years ago. By standing erect instead of on all fours, humans expose only one-third of their bodies to direct sunlight; with that posture, a full covering of hair wouldn't be necessary for sun protection. (Barlow)  

The Sasquatch it seems is a bit more haired than the average Joe, which is why I became interested in the subject of hypertrichosis as a possible reason for the BF hair issues.

This has been, more or less a four page review of what we know about Sasquatch hair which turns out to be essentially very little.    
….© Bobbie Short, 2009

Dr. Esteban Sarmiento comments on hair HERE

Mike Phillips Sasquatch Research page contains a study of hair color:

Hypertrichoses is excessive hair growth at inappropriate locations, such as on the extremities, the head, the back and the female face & neck. It is caused by genetic or acquired factors, and is an *androgen-independent process. This concept does not include hirsutism, which is an *androgen-dependent excess hair growth in women and children. (Medical Webends)

*Androgen is the generic term for any natural or synthetic compound, usually a steroid hormone, that stimulates the development of masculine characteristics by binding androgen receptors. Androgens are better known as anabolic steroids in sport medicine. Androgens, which were first discovered in 1936, are also called androgenic hormones or testoids. They are also the precursor of all estrogens, the female sex hormones. The primary and most well-known androgen is testosterone!

Photos of hirsutism and hypertrichosis examples were Internet stock....

¹ Green, John, "Sasquatch, the Apes Among Us" 1978 pg 284

Pinker, Ray, a veteran of 36 years in police crime lab techniques, formerly Los Angeles Police Dept.

Krantz, Dr. Grover S., anthropologist, published Big Foot-Prints: A Scientific Inquiry into the Reality of Sasquatch” 1992 page 128

²Citation for Fuerst - The Dayton Daily News; Monday, November 6, 1995

³ The Times, London Monday 2 April 2001

The Journal of Human Genetics: A new form of hypertrichosis inherited as an X-linked dominant trait, March 1984 Summary: A family with a distinct form of congenital generalized hypertrichosis was studied. Males were more severely affected than females, who exhibited asymmetric hair distribution. This finding was attributed to ***lyonization, since genealogical studies indicated an X-linked pattern of inheritance. A back mutation is postulated as the origin of this new phenotype.

***Lyonization, A term used for the phenomenon of X inactivation, which was first proposed by the geneticist Mary Lyon. Lyonization also called X-inactivation is a process by which one of the two copies of the X chromosome present in female mammals is inactivated. The inactive X chromosome is silenced by packaging into transcriptionally inactive heterochromatin. X-inactivation occurs so that the female, with two X chromosomes, does not have twice as many X chromosome gene products as the male, which only possess a single copy of the X chromosome.  The choice of which X chromosome will be inactivated is random in placental mammals & humans but once an X chromosome is inactivated it will remain inactive throughout the lifetime of the cell. (Puck)

Puck, J (1998) “X Inactivation in Females with X-linked Disease” New England Journal of Medicine

Danforth CH  “Studies on hair with special reference to hypertrichosis” Arch Dermatol Syphilol 12:380–401 

Felgenhauer WR (1969) Hypertrichosis lanuginosa universalis. J Genet Hum 17:1–44

Barlow, Tom. "How the hairy ape went bald." Financial Times Aug. 29, 1998. Whatever the evolutionary trigger was the sum of those adaptations left humans with sporadic body hair patterns.

Baumeister, Dr. Roy, 1993

The World Reviewer: Orang Pendek or the Little Man of the Forest, October 2004

The Manchester Online dot com, Manchester, UK

"America's Terrifying Woodland Monster-men" By Warren Smith - SAGA Magazine July 1969 article provided by Ron Schaffner

Bindernagel, Dr. John “North America's Great Ape, the Sasquatch,” 1998

Fahrenbach, Dr. W. Henner Ph.D., Laboratory of Microscopy, 6835 E. Las Animas Trail, Gold Canyon, Arizona 85118

Paulides, David & Harvey Pratt's 2009 book, Tribal Bigfoot, page 372-3

Brunner, Dr. Hans, world renowned hair expert 

Chivers, Dr. David, Cambridge University Primatologist 

Davies, Adam, cryptozoologist UK 

Sykes, Dr. Bryan, Professor of Human Genetics, Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine, UK 

Fuerst, Dr. Paul, professor of molecular genetics, Ohio State University 

Poirier, Dr. Frank, Anthropologist, formerly Ohio State University

Schaffner, Ron, Ohio for his database search & help with references for this article, June 2009

Morley, John, Texas biologist for his assistance with this article.

Foote, Jim & our friend, Sarah in California for their assistance with this article.

Joholske, Ken his 2002 report is filed here:

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