The people of Nepal call it a "rakshasa" which is Sanskrit for "demon". According to them, stories of its existence date back to the 4th century BCE; references to the Yeti are found in a poem called 'Rama and Sita'. It has regularly been sighted since 1832. Yeti means "magical creature". The name 'The Abominable Snowman' however, was given to it by western newspapers who wanted to give their readers the feeling of terror which the creature supposedly causes in the valleys, crevices and glaciers of the Himalayas.
According to legends, there are three species: the Rimi (some 2,5 m), the Nyalmot (4,5 m) and the Raksi-Bombo (1,5 m). In spite of differences in size, the species have a general resemblance. The Yeti has reddish hair (although others claim it is gray), smells terrible and it is very strong (it throws boulders as if they were pebbles). It makes an ululating or whistling sound, and is sometimes heard roaring like a lion. The Yeti is rumored to be very fond of strong alcoholic drinks.
There are many uncertainties about its origin, whether it exists or not. Some say that the Yeti is a descendant of a race of giant apes, the 'gigantophitecus' who retreated into the Himalayas some 500.000 years ago. Another theory is that the Yetis are descendant of the A-o-re, an ancient people that fled into the mountains to escape their enemies. In the following millennia, they degraded to a race of monstrous creatures. Skeptics say that the tracks were made by ordinary animals like a bear or an ape.
Of the many expeditions set out to find it, was also that of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first ever to climb the Mount Everest. He funded this expedition himself, for he and his guide Tenzing Norgay had seen footprints of a Yeti on a previous expedition. Unfortunately, his expedition was as unsuccessful as those who had gone before. However, he brought back with him a borrowed artifact: the upper half of the skull of a Yeti. This scalp came from the Khumjung Gompa (monastery) in Nepal where it is kept as a relic. It is some 300 years old, 20 cm high and has a circumference of 65 cm. Scientists said it belonged to a serow (mountain goat) which lives in eastern Asia.
There have been many other expeditions, but on none of those they got so much as even a glimpse of the creature. However, just like the 1951 expedition, they found tracks of the Yeti, and made casts of its footprints. The lack of evidence did not keep the government of Nepal from officially declaring the Yeti to exist in 1961. It became their national symbol, and an important source of income. There are even stamps of the creature.