King Kong, mighty Joe Young and the Yeti are all giants, true. Stories in tabloid magazines and speculative documentaries tell of giant ape like creatures nine feet tall killing deer in Alaska and frightening travelers in Tibet.
There are myths about giant ape creatures in every corner of the globe but these animals from film and fable do not exist in real life. The largest real giant ape species today live in African and Asian tropical forests and truly monstrous giant apes shared the bamboo forests of Asia with some of your earliest ancestors.
Chimps are Big
Chimpanzees are the primate most like us in the behavior and appearance. Adult chimps average about 130 pounds in weight and can get up to four feet in height. Females are smaller, averaging under 100 pounds and three feet in height.
The Tarzan films made chimps a familiar sight to most people but chimpanzees are not the friendly simian companion to man depicted in these movies. They are often violent and aggressive and have even been seen hunting and eating smaller primates.
Orangutans are Big
Orangutans are the largest tree dwelling primates in the world. These large fruit loving primates can attain weight of over 130 pounds and are easily distinguished by their reddish hair, long limbs and sad faced appearance. Living primarily in the rain forests of Sumatra and Borneo, the orang-utan is listed as critically endangered and at risk of becoming extinct.
Gorillas are Bigger
Gorillas (Gorilla Beringei) are the Earth’s largest living primate species. The shy giants are divided into three distinct subspecies: Mountain Gorillas and the Eastern and Western Lowland Gorillas. Living in moist tropical forests, gorillas eat a diet that is mostly fruit and vegetation but occasionally includes insects and small animals.
The largest living apes are the Eastern Lowland gorillas, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Standing a little over five feet tall, an adult male can weigh over 400 pounds with females averaging around 200 pounds. In danger of becoming extinct, these animals are among the most intelligent creatures known. Some can even communicate with people by use of sign language.
Gigantopithecus blackii-Biggest of them All
We can’t prove that a nine foot tall Yeti ever existed. We can prove that a real giant ape species prowled the bamboo forests of Asia 300,000 years ago. Gigantopithecus is the largest ape that ever lived, according to palaeontologists at the University of Iowa.
First discovered in the 1930s by German paleoanthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald, the fossil teeth and jaws of the extinct giant were being sold in Chinese apothecary shops as dragon teeth.
There is some debate over how large the giant ape was but reconstructions based upon the size and morphology of the fossils can give a general estimate of its size. Comparing it with modern gorillas, scientists think that an adult male Gigantopithecus stood between ten and twelve feet tall and could have weighed as much as 1,200 pounds.
The National Zoo: Gorilla facts
The National Zoo: Orangutans
University of Iowa: The Ape that Was