According to legend, the almas (“wildman” in Mongolian) lives in the Tian Shan mountains of China and the neighboring Altay Shan mountains of western Mongolia. Almases are described as humanlike creatures whose bodies, but not faces, are covered in reddish brown or black hair. They are said to have jutting jaws and flat noses, to walk upright, to be approximately five feet (1.5m) tall, and to eat plants, vegetables, and grass. Similar creatures have been reported in other parts of Mongolia as well as in Russia and elsewhere on the Asian continent; consequently, there are more than fifty words in various languages and dialects that mean almas. No Westerner in modern times has claimed to have seen an almas, but during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, investigators such as Russian scientist Tsyben Zhamtsarano made sketches of these man-beasts based on numerous eyewitness accounts. Unfortunately, these drawings and reports have since been lost or destroyed, and no physical remains of an almas have ever been found. Similarly, Dordji Meiren, an associate of Zhamtsarano’s, insisted he had seen an almas skin being kept in a Mongolian Buddhist monastery, although nobody has been able to confirm the skin’s existence. The first written reference to an almas appeared in a journal written by Bavarian nobleman Hans Schiltberger in the 1420s. Schiltberger claimed that while a prisoner of the Mongols, he saw several male and female almases in captivity, eating plants and grass. Westeners have reported seeing signs of the creature in modern times. For example, in the 1960s French surgeon Marie-Jeanne Josefovna Koffman claimed to have seen two almas “nests” in a remote region of Russia. These were grassy areas with a storehouse of various foods, including potatoes, pumpkins, and corncobs; the corncobs had teethmarks that Koffman believed were from a humanlike creature with a jaw too wide to be human. Koffman also collected hundreds of reports of almas-like creatures sighted by peasants and teapickers in the valleys of the Caucasus Mountains, located between the Black and Caspian seas, near Karbada, Russia. Upon studying Koffman’s work, some scientists, such as British anthropologist Myra Shackley, have suggested that almases are remnants of a race of prehistoric humans known as Neanderthals. Other scientists, such as British anthropologist Chris Stringer, believe that almases represent a different type of prehistoric human, perhaps originating in Mongolia. Skeptics, however, think that the creatures are mythical and do not exist at all.


SEE ALSO: man-beasts


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning


In the 1420s Hans Schiltberger, a Bavarian nobleman held prisoner by Mongols, took note of the presence, in the Tien Shan mountain range of present-day China, of “wild people who have nothing in common with other human beings.” Except for hands and face, they were covered with hair. Subsisting on grass and wild vegetables, they lived like animals. Schiltberger himself saw two of them, a male and a female, whom a warlord had given as a gift to his own captors.

A second early printed reference to a Mongolian “man-animal,” as the text calls it, appears in a drawing in a natural history manuscript prepared in China in the late eighteenth century. The serious context, an exposition on local flora and fauna, makes it clear that the creature was not thought to be supernatural or fantastic.

Though unrecognized by science, almas—Mongolian for “wild-men”—allegedly dwell in the Altai Mountains in the west of Mongolia and in Tien Shan in the neighboring Chinese province of Sinkiang. They have been the object of periodic attention by individual scientists. In 1913 one of them, V. A. Khakhlov, sent a report of his investigations to the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences, but it has not survived.

From the 1890s until 1928, another investigator, the ill-fated Leningrad-based professor Tsyben Zhamtsarano, conducted considerable field research into the Almas question, interviewing numerous witnesses. For the crime of being interested in Mongolian culture and folklore, the Soviet regime under Stalin declared him a “bourgeois nationalist” and sent him to the gulag, where he perished around 1940. His field notes, including illustrations (a professional artist had accompanied him to provide sketches based on eyewitness accounts), were lost or destroyed.

Most of what we know about Zhamtsarano’s research comes from Dordji Meiren, who participated in some of the work. According to Meiren, sightings began to decline in the nineteenth century, perhaps suggesting that the creatures were retreating into more remote locations in response to population pressures (a view endorsed by a later Mongolian researcher, Y. Rinchen). Meiren also claimed to have seen an Almas skin in a Buddhist monastery in the southern Gobi region of Mongolia. Because the cut was straight down the spine, the features had remained intact. The body was covered with curly red hair except for the face, Meiren said, and its fingernails and toenails resembled those of a human being.

Both adult and young Almas have been reported, according to researcher Marie-Jeanne Koffmann. The adults are said to stand approximately five feet tall, with prominent eyebrow ridges and jutting jaws. Almas use simple tools but are without language. Anthropologist Myra Shackley, one of the few Western scientists to pay attention to the question, has proposed the radical hypothesis that the creatures are relict Neandertals. Critics of her work, however, point out that she used outdated models of Neandertals, instead of the very different and intelligent, physically human-like Neandertals we are now aware of, to compare to the subhuman Almas. Mark A. Hall, Loren Coleman, Patrick Huyghe, and others suggest the answer may lie with the unlikely but possible survival of Homo erectus relict populations.


The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters,Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature
Written by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark – Copyright 1999 Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark

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