The European Wild Man

Whilst much attention is given to the traditions of hairy bipeds in North America and the mountains of Asia, cryptozoologists pay less attention to traditions of hairy bipeds in Europe (or elsewhere). The European wild man is not very similar to the supposed appearance of the bigfoot of North America or the yeti of Asia, and the range of this creature within historical times did not cover only Europe but parts of Asia and perhaps North Africa, through much of the Palaearctic. This animal is seemingly similar to humans in build, but with the exceptions of being covered in hair (except the hands, feet, face and knees) and having prominent eyebrow ridges, a sloping forehead and having large jaws.

The ancient Greeks and the Romans whose civilization they preceeded were familiar with the European wildman. Although the view we have of the satyr is of a mythical monster half man and half goat, the satyr to a Greek also meant what was seen as a real animal, the goat`s foot being a play on words as the Greeks associated the satyr with mountainous regions. In 86 B.C. a sleeping satyr was apparently captured at Durres and brought before Sulla, a Roman general. This animal was described as making a noise similar to that of a horse and a goat. A fragment of a skull that has neanderthal features and other skeletal remains were discovered at Podkumok in the Caucasus mountains that were associated with bronze age artifacts, which is late enough to have started the satyr tradition and it is quite posible that the satyrs ranged into South East Europe within historical times. A Carthaginian bowl from Praeneste in North Africa depicts an animal similar to a satyr, so perhaps the European wildman inhabited the Atlas mountains as well. The Carthaginians arrived from the Levant and here there was a tradition similar to the satyr tradition of Greece and Rome. In Isaiah there is the warning that the se`erim will dance in Palestine (because Palestine will become wild and deserted). The Hebrew word se`erim has a meaning similar to the word satyr.

There are more recent European sightings than those reports of the Greeks and Romans, including actual captured animals. In the 13th century, Albertus Magnus reported that two European wild men were captured in Saxony. Much later, in 1661, soldiers captured in Lithuania a similar animal described as a bear-man that was sent to the queen of Poland in Warsaw, who trained him to do simple tasks. In the same century, a Russian manuscript describes the capture of another animal, also described as being a bear man, this time in Poland. Later, in 1784, Michael Wagner studied a European wild man that had been caught in the woods near Kronstadt. Like other reports of the European wild man this animal had the sloping forehead, large eyebrow ridges and hairy body that identify this animal. Like the European wild man captured in Lithuania this animal did not perform complex tasks, and was unable to speak as is recorded from other captured individuals. Today, the European wild man is considered a myth in Western Europe, except in parts of Switzerland, but even today dancers dressed in furs as wild men feature in carnivals in the Balkans and in Morocco (which, other than the Praeneste bowl, form the only evidence for the former existence of the European wild man in Africa).

The range of the European wild man extends far east beyond Europe, as far east as the Gobi desert, where the animals referred to as the almas are allegedly the same as the European wild man, as are similar animals from the Pamirs. In 1925, such an animal was shot dead. It was observed that the animal was very similar to man but had a covering of hair except on the face, hands, feet and knees as well as the usual facial features of the European wild man. If this report and modern day sightings such as those from the Pamirs and Gobi desert are correct then there are surviving examples of the European wild man living today, with a range similar to that described by Makdisi as early as the 10th century, who said that the European wild man was found in the Pamirs as well as in the deserts between Kashmir, Tibet and China. So, although driven from much of the western parts of the former range, the European wild man may possibly survive in this region and in the Caucasus as well (where there are also similar traditions).

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