Alma n : a creature reported to be of ape-like appearance that inhabits the mountains in central Asia, which was up until a few years ago part of the Soviet Union.

Although not as well known as the Yeti and Bigfoot stories about the Alma suggest that it is a creature more akin to a hairy human than an ape.

Professor Boris Porchnev, of the Moscow Academy of Sciences, published a description of the creature based on detailed stories he'd gathered from people who had seen it.

"There is no under layer of hair so that the skin can sometimes be seen," says the report. "The head rises to a cone-shaped peak," it continues, and "the teeth are like a man's, but larger, with the canines more widely separated." Porchnev's description also noted that the Alma can swim in swift currents and run as fast as a horse. Breeding pairs remain together living in holes in the ground.  Their diet consists of small animals and vegetables, and they have a mainly nocturnal nature. It is also noted in the report that Almas have a "distasteful smell."

A traveler in Mongolia called N.M. Pzewalski gathered the first stories of the Alma in 1881.  He was also responsible for the discovery of the Mongolian wild horse. Sightings of the Alma were reported during the Second World War by refugees, soldiers, and prisoners of war. 

There have been reports that Almas have been shot and killed.  One such report happened during a clash with the Japanese by a Russian reconnaissance unit in Mongolia.  Two shadowy figures were shot when they failed to respond to a challenge by sentries.  Unfortunately because of the war the bodies, described as having the appearance of a "strange anthropoid ape" covered with long red hair and about the size of a man, could not be returned to Moscow for thorough scientific evaluation.

Several expeditions were undertaken to look for the Alma while the Soviet Union was still together.  However, although many interesting stories turned up, there was little in the way of unusual artifacts.  Lack of hard evidence led Russian scientists to become disillusioned about the value of searching for Almas.

Dr. Proshnev did speculate that the Alma could perhaps be one of a last surviving group of Neanderthal men.  Indeed the areas where reports of Alma sightings have taken place have yielded a number of Neanderthal artifacts, thus lending some weight to Proshnev's hypothesis.

Political instablity and the dismemberment of the Soviet union has done little to facilitate further research in this area, so for the time being the Alma remains an enigma.


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