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Esti Capcaki – Native American Legend of the Skunk Ape

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Almost every continent on Earth has its legends and myths of hairy, bipedal creatures, from the Yeti to Sasquatch to Bigfoot. In Florida, the mythical ‘Skunk Ape’ (or Swamp Ape) reigns supreme. What modern society doesn't realize is that these creatures are nothing new. The legend of the Skunk Ape goes back hundreds of years, dating to oral myths passed through generations of indigenous Florida tribes who warned settlers of the foul-smelling and hairy creatures. Settlers heard Miccosukee and Seminole tribe members tell tales and speak of what they called the Esti Capcaki (pronounced Estee Jap Jaki) or “cannibal giant”, otherwise known as the Skunk Ape.

Indigenous people across the globe have had relationships with these creatures for hundreds of years, and often associate them with natural or spiritual phenomena. Tribal beliefs base their Bigfoot and Esti Capcaki stories either on actual encounters or mystical perceptions of natural spirits. Various Native American tribes describe Bigfoot as an enigma shrouded in power and magic. At times, they are perceived as being violent and crude, and in other instances, he is a helpful partner among tribes.

General descriptions of the Esti Capcaki (Skunk Ape) range from a hairy beast with gray, white, black, brown, or red hair; height ranging from 5 to 7 feet; weighing from 300 to 600 pounds of lean muscle; has four toes; and a howl that can cause a person's hair to stand on end. They are often found in the swamps and in the deep woods of Central and South Florida near water and food sources, and areas with good natural shelter.

While depictions of Sasquatch-like creatures vary slightly among Native American tribes, one aspect that pervades each myth is the noxious body odor they emit. The Skunk Ape (Esti Capcaki) has been aptly named for its skunk-like aroma and primate-like appearance.

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