Why Is the Indian Army Tweeting About Yetis?

Footprints in the snow.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Indian army has spurred an avalanche of jokes and bolstered the spirits of the occasional true believer with a tweet purporting to show evidence of the elusive yeti.

"For the first time, an #IndianArmy Mountaineering Expedition Team has sited Mysterious Footprints of mythical beast 'Yeti' measuring 32x15 inches close to Makalu Base Camp on 09 April 2019," the Indian army account tweeted yesterday (April 29). "This elusive snowman has only been sighted at Makalu-Barun National Park in the past."

The army has not given any indication that it is joking. According to The Times of India, officials said they were turning over the "evidence" to "subject matter experts" and wanted to go public to rekindle public interest in the mythical ape-like beast. [Real or Not? The Science Behind 12 Unusual Sightings]

Twitter users, though, immediately jumped on the opportunity for levity, with many tweeting goofy GIFs of dancing yeti and mocking the post.

The yeti is an old myth, originating with the people who call the Himalayas home. Its alternative name, the Abominable Snowman, came from a 1921 interview with British explorers of Mount Everest that was conducted by a journalist named Henry Newman. The adventurers claimed to have seen footprints on the mountain that their guide said came from a "metoh-kangmi," or "man-bear snow-man." Newman mistranslated "metoh" as "filthy," and then he decided to swap out that word for the more poetic "Abominable."

Alleged "yeti" have occasionally been sighted since, but none of the sightings has panned out. One of the most famous photographs of a purported yeti turned out to be a rock.

The pictures posted by the Indian army are hardly slam-dunk proof of a sighting. They consist of a few shots of a single-file line of impressions in snow that looks like it's experienced some partial melting — in one picture, small downhill lines show spots where chunks of snow or ice had skidded down the hillside. The tracks are indistinct and don't seem to preserve anything resembling claw or toe marks. Indeed, they look very little like something left by a bipedal animal, given that there is only one line of impressions.

Earlier yeti "evidence" has failed to provide any factual basis for the snow-loving creature. In 2011, a bone claimed to be a yeti finger turned out to belong to a long-dead human. And every sample of so-called "yeti hair" ever tested has turned out to belong to bears or dogs.

Originally published on Live Science.

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.