What are cryptid humanoids?
To understand the nature of creatures like the Yowie, we have to understand what they are. Because creatures like the Yowie were never scientifically proven to be real, they fall under the group ‘cryptid humanoids’. A cryptid humanoid is a creature that supposedly exists, like the Loch Ness monster, but no proof, other than pictures or footprints, has been found to support that claim. It’s very typical for a cryptid to have many different descriptions. Not only throughout the world, but also locally, People who had an encounter tend to see different things, but somehow, in the end, everybody seems to roughly agree on how the creature looks.
The story of the Yowie, or bigfoot, or the Yeti is an interesting one. Don’t be mistaken, they are not the same creature, but they look very much alike. An interesting fact is that, unlike many other creatures, they are seen throughout the whole world. So far, I haven’t found another name but ‘cryptid’ or ‘humanoid’ for these creatures. So from here on, when I refer to ‘cryptid humanoid’ I refer to creatures like the Yowie, Yeti, and bigfoot. But not anything else that could be considered to be a humanoid or a cryptid.
Cryptid humanoids throughout the world
When asking around on our Facebook group about local Yowie-like creatures, I was quick to find out that people would willingly volunteer their aunts and husbands for that label! I’m sure there’s the occasional mother in law too :p. But without all the craziness: There are a LOT! The best-known cryptid humanoids are, like mentioned before: Bigfoot and the Yeti. From what I can tell, these are the ones that were picked up by the media, and a lot of conspiracy theories are going around about them.
However, the Yowie is very well known in Australia. And there are way more out in the world. Think of the Almas and Chuchuna (Siberia) or the Skoocooms (America).
A list of cryptid humanoids like the Yowie
Have you ever wondered how many cryptid humanoids are out there, that roughly look like the Yowie? It’s very hard to tell, and it’s very hard to decide which does and which doesn’t look like the Yowie. They all have roughly the same descriptions: Hairy humanoid creatures that have ape-like features with long arms and legs. The fur color may vary and so does the size, but more often than not they’re larger than human beings. In this article, I write about 17 types in total, but there are way more out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over a hundred. But to get a feel for them, a description of those listed below will be added to this article as they cover all continents (except Antarctica, as there are no such creatures reported for that area).
Cryptid humanoids throughout the world
- Yowie, Quinkin or Joogabinna, amongst other names. ~Australia
- Bigfoot, Salishan or Sasquatch ~ Canada/US
- Ts’emekwes or Skookums ~ Canada/US (A more dangerous variation of Bigfoot)
- Woodbooger ~Eastern US (A more dangerous and smaller variation of Bigfoot)
- Abominable swamp slob ~ Georgia/Florida US
- Yeti or Terrible snowman ~Himalaya mountains
- Almas ~ Siberia
- Chuchuna ~ Siberia (Cousins of Almas)
- Abnauayu ~ Siberia (Cousins of Almas)
- Agrios Anthropos ~ Lybia
- Afonya ~ Kola Peninsula Russia
- Genderuwo ~ Indonesia
- Adam-Dzhapais ~ Central Asia
- Basajaun ~ Southern France
- Sisimito ~ Honduras/Belize
- Agogwe, Kakundakari or Kilomba ~Zimbabwe and Congo Africa
- El Cuatlacas ~Mexico
Did you know that there are also tree-like cryptid humanoids out there that fit the description? The Kapre from the Philippines is one of those creatures.
It’s a tall creature with brown fur and is often, but not always, portrayed with bark-like skin and branches growing from its body. This cryptid is said to live in big trees, smoking a large Ganya pipe. They are generally friendly but are also prone to stalk women they fell in love with.
The Yowie, cryptid humanoid of the Australian outback
Alongside Bigfoot and the Yeti, the Yowie is the best-known cryptid humanoid. The Yowie is known to live in the Australian outback and has a long history. Like many other cryptid humanoids within this category, the Yowie is seen frequently but has never been captured. Nor did anyone ever find any scientific proof of the existence of the Yowie.
As there are so many cryptid humanoids out there with roughly the same descriptions, I will only describe the Yowie in-depth. But the others that are listed above can still be found further down this article.
A special thanks to Jade Jez for bringing up this topic and providing the illustration featured in this article!
Origin of the Yowie
The Yowie likely existed long before the first reports were made. It’s known to be part of the Aboriginal history (native people of Australia) which is mainly an oral history. When European settlers came to Australia, these same Aboriginals warned the settlers about the Yowie. Some tribes, like the Kuku Yulanji tribe in North Queensland area, claim to have coexisted for centuries. They tell about a long history of attacks by Yowies. When compared to other ape-like cryptid humanoids, the Yowie is relatively aggressive. They are known to tear off dog- and kangaroo heads. It is not unlikely that the Aboriginals of that time told about the Yowie to fend off or warn the European settlers.
The very first written reports about the Yowie are in 1842. But in those days the Yowie was known as the Yahoo. It’s not clear whether they are the same creature, but descriptions and modern believes suggest they are one and the same. The name Yowie was first recorded in 1875, by William Ridney who obtained the name from the Aboriginal Kámilarói people. The Kámilarói people believe the Yowie to be a spirit that roams the earth at night. Which suggests it’s part of the Aboriginal Dreamtime.
Did you know that, to this day, Australians still tell stories to scare off tourists? They tell them about the dangerous ‘drop bears‘. Drop bears are large carnivorous bears with huge fangs that will drop from trees on top of unsuspecting people, just to tear them apart.
In truth, these drop bears are the very gentle koalas who are herbivores and aren’t bears at all.
Other Yowie names
The Yowie has many more names, depending on the area the stories came from. In parts of Queensland the Yowie is known as the Quinkin and the Joogabinna. In New-South Whales as the Myngawin, Ghindaring, Jurrawarra, Puttikan, Doolaga, Gulaga, or Thoolagal. But the Yowie is called Yaroma, Noocoonah, Wawee, Pangkarlangu, Jimbra, and Tjangara as well. These names come from different tribes throughout Australia. Just make your pick. What is your favorite?
The Yowie and the Aboriginal Dreamtime
The aboriginal Dreamtime is a form of religion or evolutionary belief which is not well understood by non-indigenous people.
Aboriginals believe that the Dreamtime was all the way back to the beginning where the land and people were created by the Spirits. These spirits are considered to be their ancestors. They gave the Aboriginal people rivers, streams, land and hills, plants, and animals. But also their hunting tools, totems, and their dreaming. It’s a story of how the world came to be, how everything was created and how humans are supposed to function within that world. This belief dates back 65,000 years.
There are many kinds of Spirits, depending on the tribe. For some, it’s snakes, for others animal spirits. It is likely that the Yowie was one of these spirits, at least for some of the tribes.
Physical appearance of the Yowie
The Yowie looks a lot like other humanoid cryptids. The Yowie is a hairy, ape-like creature that stands 210 cm to 360 cm tall (6ft11 to 12ft) and had very large feet. It’s sometimes described to have white fur, but most of the time it has a tan, black, or red/orange hair. Which would make more sense, considering its habitat. The description of the tracks is very inconsistent. The shapes vary and the amount of toes varies too. Some say it has large canines and huge talons. Features are more common among cryptids.
The face is dark and has a flat nose, heavy brow, no chin, and little to no neck, and in some cases, the feet are turned backward. This is supposedly a flight tactic as hunters will follow the tracks in the wrong direction. This could explain why the Yowie has never been captured.
Did you know the Queensland government had to replace the penis of the statue several times? They even put barbed wire around the statue. People kept stealing the penis. They finally gave up. The Yowie now stands on its pedestal without his manly-hood.
Yowie habitat and diet
The Yowie is mostly found in the Outback in areas where there’s a lot of dense bushlands. They’re quick to move around in this habitat and know exactly where to hide. Like many other humanoid cryptids, they do well in mountainous landscapes too. In their habitat, they find their food of preference. Which mostly consists of kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits, and grubs. Even dingos can’t escape the Yowie. But they won’t ignore the local farm crops either, nor trashcans, roadkill, or small cattle. Which makes them omnivores ánd scavengers at the same time, very quick, strong, and very well camouflaged.
Yowies are hunters and opportunists, they’re ferocious creatures that could easily take on people. They’re capable of killing powerhouses like kangaroos. Some claim that the Yowie can speak. One of the reports claims that they speak Latin, which would suggest a human-like intelligence. Setting traps and using other tools to hunt down their prey is not unlikely for that reason.
The Yowie is often described to be shy towards people and prefers to hide from them. But when cornered or desperate for food, they won’t hesitate to attack people or have human flesh for breakfast.
As a corpse has never been found, it’s believed that Yowies live in communities that take care of their own dead.
Other cryptid humanoids
As mentioned before, there are many more cryptid humanoids like the Yowie. Many of those roughly look and behave like the Yowie, while others look more like a whole different kind of animal-human mix. Like wolves, bats, deer, pigs, and so forth. When looking only at the ape-like cryptid humanoids we still easily pass 100 variations. But as this is a website about art, and how to implement creature features, describing one in-depth, while some more are summarised to broaden your vision, is enough!
Bigfoot, Salisan or the Sasquatch
This cryptid humanoid is native to North America and Canada. very tall 1.8 to 2,7m tall (6,9ft), strong built and usually has fur in the reddish-brown and grey to black spectrum. The head is relatively small compared to his body and has a hairless, dark face. The face is flattened like that of a gorilla, has a square jaw, and human-like teeth with prominent canines, but not fang-like. Bigfoot has little to no neck, either because it’s short or because the shoulder muscles obscure the neck.
The arms are relatively long, reaching all the way to the knees, and the hands are broader than that of humans. The fingers are relatively short. The legs are very muscular and the feet are enormous.
Bigfoot is believed to be nocturnal and supposedly has a better night vision than humans. Despite their size, they move around with ease in their habitat, which is forests and woodlands, oftentimes near mountains. They’re great at hiding, have good camouflage, and it’s not uncommon for them to just stand totally still in the hope a human will not spot them while walking by. They can easily pick up boulders of hundreds of kilos and hurl them away. They’re known to kill their prey, which is deer among other creatures, simply by stoning them to death. But they also eat leaves, berries, fruits, roots, fish, clams, and aquatic plants. Like the Yowie, Bigfoot doesn’t mind eating roadkill or steal from trash cans. They are never reported to eat people.
Yeti, or the Terrible Snowman
The Yeti, also known as the Terrible Snowman, Migyur, or Yeren, lives in the Himalayas. They tend to live high up in the mountains in snow caves on the glaciers. They are 2,40 to 3,20m tall (8 to 10,5 ft). Although the popular belief is that the Yeti is white, which would make sense considering its environment. It is generally accepted that the coat is brown, reddish, or black. The face is bald and usually dark of a color. The flat face holds large canines and an ape-like appearance. The Yeti had long arms and is very strong built, much like the Yowie and Bigfoot. The feet are also very large.
Yeti is said to be very peaceful and somewhat shy. But in some stories, they raped a woman who later got sick very sick. In others, they grow larger the higher the sun is. When someone looks at them will lose consciousness and energy. They are thought to be intelligent, like an ape. They have an organized household in their snow caves and use a pile of snow as their beds.
Yeti are quite strong and fast, because of this they don’t have trouble obtaining food. They are primarily carnivorous, which makes sense, considering there won’t be much growing up in the mountains. They usually eat Argali sheep, Bharal and Markhorn. When there is no food around they will resort to eating bamboo.
Did you know that the German Nazi Heinrich Himmler ordered a zoölogist called Ernst Schäffer to hunt down the Yeti? Himmler thought that the Yeti was the ‘missing link’ of the ‘superior’ Aryan race. At some point, a Yeti was collected and is now stored in a museum in Italy. However, after DNA tests, this ‘Yeti’ is proven to be part dog part bear.
That would make an interesting ‘missing link’.
*Click* for the image.
The woodbooger lives in the mid-Appalachian mountains (US). They are considered to be subspecies of bigfoot and are a lot smaller than Bigfoot. Just like Bigfoot, it has a flattened ape-like, bald and dark face, a large brow, big canines, and little to no neck. The fur is reddish, brown, or black, it has long arms, a muscular, but slender body, and relatively large feet. They measure 2 to 3m (7 to 10ft) tall. They’re both bipedal and quadrupedal, adding to their speed and agility.
The woodbooger got its name because it is known to carry off children, just like the boogieman. They’re also much more aggressive than their cousins and like Bigfoot, tend to live in groups. They prefer thick forests which they roam with ease and they’re known to steal livestock from farmers. They are omnivores but prefer meat they hunt down themselves. From time to time they scavenge trash and roadkill,
Because this species is more aggressive, they won’t hesitate to throw rocks or acorns at people that trespass into their territory. They also don’t mind going out into town to scare people by letting out loud shrieks, staring through windows, and banging walls and doors. They are mostly seen at night, but not considered to be nocturnal
This one is quite different. The Genderuwo is native to Indonesia. It’s a dark bipedal creature with dark, very thick ruffled fur and an ape-like flat face with dark skin. This creature looks more like an ape than a human. Its jaw is lined with sharp teeth, which usually drip with blood. The fangs are tusk-like turning to the side and up. The eyes are a piercing red, and the fingernails are long and sharp. Almost claw-like.
The Genderuwo is a shapeshifter, it can change itself into small hairy creatures only to expand quickly in its natural form, but it can shapeshift into human form too. It prefers to live in abandoned buildings, damp dark corners, or in or under big trees, where it waits for nightfall to come out. But make sure to beware of wasp nests too. The Genderuwo tends to hide in those too.
Its believed that the Genderuwo spawns from people who committed suicide, died from an unnatural death, or didn’t have a proper burial. Good people will turn into good Genderuwo, bad people will turn into bad Genderuwo.
They will abduct people that are upset or anxious and take them to the top of their bamboo grove. Pee on passerby’s, and give bladder problems to those who urinate on their trees. They also throw pebbles at people’s houses at night. But in some cases the Genderuwo will break into a woman’s house while she’s asleep, stroke her body, wear her underwear, and sometimes even stays to live in her womb, controlling her libido. Whenever she climaxes, so does the Genderuwo. In some cases, the Genderuwo visits widows, disguised as their late husband and shares the bed.
The Basajaun is a creature, also known as the ‘Lord of the Woods’. It’s a ghost or divine creature. It’s a very large creature with a human-like appearance and has hair all over its body. Unlike many other humanoid cryptids, this one can have a mustache and an obvious beard which can be in a different color. It has very long arms and is 2,70 to 3.05m (9 to 10 ft) in length, which makes the Basajaun have similar features to a giant. The female counterpart of the Basajaun doesn’t have a beard or mustache but still sports a lot of hair elsewhere. In some stories, they are said to have one, or even two hoof-shaped feet like that of a cow or a horse.
The Basahaun lives in the Pyrenees mountain range in France and Spain and lives in caves deep in the forests. They are peaceful creatures and tend to help out shepherds, protecting their herds. They whistle and shout to warn shepherds from packs of wolves or incoming storms in exchange for a piece of bread. Basajaun are quite intelligent and are known to build megaliths, dolmens, and cromlechs. Which makes them very strong creatures. But they’re also quite intelligent and familiar with agriculture, music, ironworking, carpentry, architecture, and other kinds of technology long before humans did, which they then taught to humankind. However, they didn’t evolve as far as we people do as they still live in caves and are often portrayed with little to no clothes and primitive weapons and tools.
Agogwe, Kakundakari or Kilomba
Moving to Africa we come across the Agogwe, also known as the Kakundakari or the Kilomba, depending on the region or local tribes in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, the Ivory Coast, and Congo. This creature, unlike other cryptid humanoids, is actually quite small. It measures 1 to 1.7 meters (2 to 5ft). But it does have very long arms and a hairy body with rusty-colored hair. The skin is of a lighter orange-like tone, sometimes described as copper. It’s said that it looks a lot like a chimpanzee, but it has a more rounded forehead and smaller, but very sharp teeth.
The Agogwe tends to trade goods with local tribes, after which they disappear in dense forests again, usually at the foot of a mountain. There are sightings of more than one Agogwe at the same time, suggesting they live in groups or tribes. They are skittish and prefer not to be seen, but if they are cornered, or you enter their habitat, they’re proving to be mean little bastards. On other accounts, they’re described as proud creatures. This suggests they each may have their own personality. Otherwise, there is very little known of these creatures. The fact they trade suggests they have some level of intelligence that could be compared to humans, making them sentient. And the need to trade with people suggests they either are opportunistic or like to eat things they can’t make themselves. Either way, it’s very likely they’re herbivores or omnivores for that reason.
First seen in 2011, El Cuatlacas is considered to be the ‘Southern Bigfoot’. This creature stands 2,7m (9ft) tall and has thick tangled dark hair. Its strength is immense and so is its aggression when its habitat is disturbed or destroyed. The El Cuatlacas can easily wreak a truck, or pick up a large tree trunk. Its facial features are somewhat humanoid, broad, dark, and flat, The El Cuatlacas has rarely been seen and few people know of it as it lives in the extremely dense forested mountains of Mexico. But like the Yeti, it doesn’t seem to mind cold that much. Cuatlacas have been seen on mountaintops in very cold weather, covering large distances on rough landscapes with little to no trouble. Some reports state that footprints show a single claw angled backward, which would aid the creature to climb as fast as it does.
The name ‘El Cuatlacas’ loosely means ‘Forest Guardian’ in an old Totnac dialect. Considering the fact this creature destroyed the truck of a few illegal woodcutters seems to attest to that. They dislike human presence within their forest, and if provoked, can turn out to be very strong, territorial, and aggressive. This creature is not reported to be able to talk and there is little known about its diet or behavior.
Cryptid humanoids for creatives
No matter if you are an illustrator, a sculptor, a writer, or are practicing another kind of creative hobby or profession: Cryptid humanoids are an interesting kind of being. It’s important to remember that these cryptids have been roaming around in human history for millennia, making them an important part of history. They tell a lot about the human interpretation of bipedal things that are unknown.
Imagination at work
It is safe to say that, these days, we all know about Bigfoot, the Yeti, and the Yowie. They’re called ‘cryptid’ for a reason as no scientific evidence has been found of their existence. But looking at all the examples, we can see time and again that the creature is ape-like, has shaggy hair, is bipedal, has relatively long arms and legs, and a relatively flat somewhat humanoid face. Also, reports of the same ‘species’ vary wildly, suggesting strongly that people saw something they couldn’t explain because they never saw it before, or it was gone too quickly.
Our brain is amazing in filling in the gaps. When we see something vaguely, our imagination will take over and pull information from what our eyes did see, and add to that a variety of information already stored in our brains.
- More on our imagination and interpreting creatures in this article: Drawing from imagination, why is it so hard?
Are cryptid humanoids imagination or the real thing?
You may wonder why this is an important question for us artists. But it is, without a doubt, because it tells something about human beings that witnessed something that fits this description. It’s even more interesting that these are things seen all over the world. These sightings tend to explode after:
- Other sightings in the area
- First sightings or stories on a whole different continent (like the story of the Yowie)
- Media attention
As mentioned before: Our imagination is powerful. We are curious beings too, we always have been and we still are to this day. There are many reasons why people tend to label sightings as a species, one of them being a way to comprehend whatever they thought they saw, after all, our ‘primitive brain’ (the archipallium) will want to identify a potential threat, and us humans are less scared of things that have a name. And this is interesting, as bipedal animals that are human-sized or even larger, are VERY rare. So it’s logical to jump to conclusions and think it’s some sort of humanoid creature.
So, are these cryptid humanoid sightings real? This of course is a controversial question, that holds an even more controversial, but correct answer: Yes, they are! Or at least many of them. The sightings are real, but, and this is a big but: Science suggests they are not exactly cryptid humanoids. First of all, cryptid humanoids are cryptid because there is no scientific proof that they exist.
But also, science did prove that for example, the Yeti, is actually a bear that exists in the Himalayan mountains. Some of these bears live up in the trees in their younger years to avoid adult bears, which makes them not only more visible, but it’s more likely that you will find them standing upright too. Also, because they spend so much time up in the trees, their thumbs become relatively flexible. So whenever they walk in the snow, it looks a lot like a giant footprint.
Other possible explanations for the sightings of cryptid humanoids
In several cases, bears are thought to be these cryptid humanoids. But in many other areas, like in South America, there are monkeys that could easily fit the description. There is even a small possibility that there are monkey or ape species we don’t know about yet, or are extinct by now, but could have been seen by people who thought they had to do with a Yowie-like creature.
There is even strong evidence that the creatures that were seen, in some cases were sick animals. Mange would explain the fur that is often described as matted, and would also explain the bald faces in species that otherwise have hairy faces. But also think of never seen hybrids or deformed animals. And of course, many of these sightings might not even have been real. Or at best, be a case of ‘I thought I saw…’,
As for creature designers, what can we learn from cryptid humanoids?
Or actually, what can we learn from the sightings and the details? Apart from, obviously using their descriptions in our designs.
Well, first of all: Imagination is key. Even us relatively ‘down to earth’ human beings can see things that are not there. And if we do see it correctly: The information we have stored in our memory may not be accurate. Simply because it’s inaccurate, or because the thing we are seeing is sick, a hybrid, or maybe even a deformed creature and therefore not meet our expectations.
In your creature designs, it’s VERY important to remember that a creature has to look believable to ‘hit home’. The reason that these cryptid humanoids are ‘out there’, all over the world, and have been for millennia, or even longer, is because they make sense! They look like something that could be alive, they are recognizable enough to be what people think they are, and they behave in a way that makes sense in their environments. And this is, without a doubt, the best lesson you can take from creatures like the Yowie.
Other interesting notions about cryptid humanoids
In all cases, the creatures that are described to be something like a Yowie or a Yeti, fit very well within their environments, In nearly all cases they sound like creatures that belong right where they are, even despite the fact that many people don’t know what habitat fits what creature. The Yeti is an amazing example of this.
Although the Yeti is often portrayed as white, it’s commonly believed to be brown or black, like the bears that live in the Himalayan mountains. Yeti is thought to be carnivorous too, adding to the idea that bears are these Yeti. And on top of that, they live in an environment that has little to no vegetation, so it’s very logical that they’re thought to be carnivorous. Of course, bears are omnivores, but living so high up in the mountains, their diets will predominantly consist out of meat.
- Learn more about creature design in this article: What makes a good creature design
Read more about legends and myths
- The unicorn, an ancient myth
- How a dragon god made the jellyfish loose its shell
- The Chupacrabra, a modern day legend
Cryptid humanoids are interesting creatures, for us, as artists, but also for many other people. There is a reason why these ‘myths’ have been out there for so long, and are still keeping people and science busy. Simply because they make sense. It’s very plausible that there are species out there that will prove to be the Yeti, or Yowie, or Bigfoot, but simply are no humanoids, or maybe even apes. But nearly all of them come from human imagination and are shaped and described in such a way that they make absolute sense within their environment. Especially considering the types that have no special powers, like the Genderuwo.
So, whenever you think of a new creature design and you’re not sure what to make of it yet: Think of the Yowie and its family throughout the world. Remember why they make so much sense and why so many people believe they are real. This even to a point where science gets involved.
Jade Jez from Steam Power Studio’s was so kind as to make a wonderful custom showcase featured artwork of the Yowie! The Yowie, coming from Australian folklore, is close to Jade’s heart as she lives in Australia herself and grew up with stories of the Yowie (and drop bears). She was so kind to also provide me with more subject matter about the Yowie and gave feedback on the finished article. Thank you Jade!