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Wild Men of the Tibetan Steppes

Wild Men of the Tibetan Steppes

It was a common Tibetan folktale that hairy wild men lived up in the higher peaks, among the eternal snows - along with mythical white lions whose roars boom out during great storms. The supposed tracks of these supposed wild men were apparently those of "the great yellow snow bear". (This from an account of 1889.) A Tibetan lama told a Westerner of meeting hairy savages - speechless and naked creatures more like animals than men, with long tangled locks falling about them like cloaks. Mongolians called these creatures geresun bamburshe, "wild men"; Prejevalsky in 1871 reported the same creatures, calling them kung guressu or "man beast". British explorers were convinced these accounts stemmed from bear worship in the folk history of Central Asia; the yeti were mountain bears.

This is the same Prejevalsky who discovered Prejevalsky's Horse, and he discovered that in 1879 during a Tibetan expedition, in the remoteness of Mongolian Central Asia. He was looking for one of the wild strains from which modern horses are descended - one of the famous ponies used by Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes. The Mongols obtained their mounts by domesticating the descendants of these wild ponies. One traveler, Bonvalot, reported that his small Tibetan horses were carnivorous and fed upon raw flesh.

Aborigines called Lepchas lived in the Himalayan forests; Europeans called them the lotos-eaters, the primeval Arcadians, but during the nineteenth century (?) they were already going extinct . . . There was another race called the Baltis which was, like the Lepchas, sure to soon vanish - superseded by the more energetic Nepalese and the sturdier Tibetans.

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