Now, however, an Oxford geneticist claims to have solid evidence that the elusive creature does exist.
Professor Bryan Sykes has found a genetic match between two separate hair samples found in the upper reaches of mountains and a large bear that lived more than 40,000 years ago. The findings suggest that there are several â€œyetisâ€ roaming the area.
Professor Sykes conducted DNA tests on hairs from two unidentified animals, one found in the western Himalayan region of Ladakh, in northern India, and the other in Bhutan, 800 miles east.
The results were compared to other animalsâ€™ genomes stored on a database of all published DNA sequences. Prof Sykes found a 100 per cent match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway.
That specimen dated back at least 40,000 years, and probably 120,000 years â€” a time when the polar bear and the closely related brown bear were separating as different species. Prof Sykes believes that the yeti is a hybrid of the two bears.
The sample from Ladakh came from mummified remains of a creature shot by a hunter around 40 years ago. He considered the animal so unusual, and so alarming, that he kept some of its remains. The second sample was a single hair, found in a bamboo forest by an expedition of filmmakers, about 10 years ago.