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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 4/February 1874/A Freak of Nature

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 4‎ | February 1874

A FREAK OF NATURE.

THERE were recently exhibited in Berlin and Paris two individuals who attracted much attention among scientific men, owing to a very singular development of hair upon the face and neck. In Paris they received the appellation of hommes-chiens (dog-men), from the resemblance of the adult's face to that of a Skye terrier. The portrait here given of Andrian Jeftichjew hardly does justice to this striking resemblance, though in other respects it is a faithful representation of the man's curiously hirsute countenance. Andrian is about fifty-five years of age, and is said to be the son of a Russian soldier. In order to escape the derision and the unkind usage of his fellow-villagers, Andrian in early life fled to the woods, where, for some time, he lived

Fig. 1.
PSM V04 D464 Andrian Jeftichjew.jpg
Andrian Jeftichjew.

in a cave. During this period of seclusion he was much given to drunkenness, and even yet he is said to live chiefly on sauer-kraut and schnapps. His mental condition, however, observes a medical journal, does not seem to have suffered, and he is, on the whole, of a kindly and affectionate disposition to his son and those about him. It may be of interest to state that Andrian is an orthodox member of the Russo-Greek Church, and that, degraded as he is intellectually, he has very definite notions about heaven and the hereafter. He hopes to introduce his frightful countenance into the court of heaven, and his present tour may be regarded as a sort of preparation for death, as he devotes all the money he makes, over and above his outlay for creature comforts, to purchasing the prayers of a devout community of monks in his native village, Kostroma, after his mortal career is ended.

Andrian is of medium stature, but very strongly built. His excessive capillary development is not true hair, being simply an abnormal growth of the down or fine hairs which usually cover nearly the entire surface of the human body. Strictly speaking, he has neither head-hair, beard, mustache, eyebrows, nor eyelashes, their place being taken by this singular growth of long, silky down. In color this is of a dirty yellow; it is about three inches in length, all over the face, and feels like the hair of a Newfoundland dog. The very eyelids are covered with this long hair, while flowing locks come out of his nostrils and ears. On his body are isolated patches, strewed, but not thickly, with hairs one and a half to two inches long. Dr. Bertillon, of Paris, compared a hair from Andrian's chin with a very fine hair from a man's beard, and found that the latter was three times as thick as the former; and a hair from Andrian's head is only one-half as thick as an average human hair.

Fig. 2.
PSM V04 D465 Fedor Jeftichjew.jpg
Fedor Jeftichjew.

When these strange beings were exhibited in Berlin, Prof. Virchow was much interested in them, and gathered all accessible information about their life and ancestry. He states that Andrian is, so far as known, the first of his line to present this wonderful hirsuteness. Neither his reputed father nor his mother presented any peculiarity of this kind, and a brother and sister of his who are still living are in no wise remarkable for capillary development. Andrian married and had two children, who died young; one of these was a girl, who resembled her father; but of the other, a boy, nothing can be ascertained.

Fedor, whose portrait we give, is Andrian's illegitimate son, and is about three years of age. He is a sprightly child, and apparently more intelligent than his father. The growth of the down on his face is not yet so heavy as to conceal his features, but there is no doubt that when the child comes to full maturity he will be at least as hirsute as his parent. The hairs are as white and as soft as the fur of the Angora cat, and are longest at the outer angles of the eyes; there is a thick tuft between the eyes, and the nose is well covered. The mustache joins the whisker on each side, after the English fashion, and this circumstance gives to accurate portraits of the child a ludicrous resemblance to a well-fed Englishman of about fifty. As in the father's case, the inside of Fedor's nostrils and ears has a thick crop of hair.

It is remarkable that both Andrian and Fedor are almost toothless, the former possessing only five teeth, one in the upper jaw and four in the lower, while the child has but four teeth, all in the lower jaw. These four teeth are, in both cases, the incisors. To the right of Andrian's one upper tooth there still remains the mark of another which has disappeared. That beyond these six teeth the man never had any others is evident to any one who feels the gums with the finger.

Buffon, in the supplement to his "Natural History" (1774) mentions a native of Russia, whom he had seen, and whose entire face was covered with hair. But a more exact counterpart of Andrian is found in a Burmese family living at Ava, and first described by Crawford, an English traveler, in 1829. At the time of Crawford's visit to Ava, Shwe-Maong, the head of this family, was about thirty years of age. His whole body, except the hands and feet, were covered with silky hairs, which, on the shoulders and along the spine, attained the length of five inches. Shwe-Maong arrived at puberty at the age of twenty years, and it was only then that he lost his milk-teeth, which were replaced by five teeth in the upper jaw, one canine and four incisors, and four incisors in the lower jaw. He had four daughters, one only of whom resembled her father. She was found living at Ava by a British officer in 1855, who states that her son was hairy like his grandfather, Shwe-Maong.

In "Animals and Plants under Domestication," Darwin mentions Julia Pastrana, a Spanish dancer, or opera-singer; she was "a remarkably fine woman, but she had a thick, masculine beard, and a hairy forehead; she was photographed, and her stuffed skin was exhibited for a show.... From the redundancy of her teeth, her mouth projected, and her face had a. gorilla-like appearance." A writer in the French Journal l'Illustration gives us a fuller account of this woman. "She was of very dark complexion," says he, "short of stature and well proportioned; her hands and feet were small, her nails yellow; she had a beautiful breast. Her tresses were very long, deep black, and coarse as horse-hair, and she had a strong beard. Her forehead was overgrown with hair, down to the bushy eyebrows, which over-shadowed her soft, humid eyes within their border of black lashes.

Fig. 3.
PSM V04 D467 Julia Pastrana.jpg
Julia Pastrana.

Her face was made specially hideous by the excessive development of the half-open lips; she spoke with difficulty, and sang mezzo-soprano in Spanish. The parts having the heaviest covering of hair were the shoulders and the hips, the breast and the spinal column. On the limbs the hairiness was greatest on the inner side."

Mr. Darwin recognizes the existence of a constant relation between the hair and the teeth, and cites the deficiency of teeth in hairless dogs. He says that in those exceptional cases in which the hair has been renewed in old age, this has "usually been accompanied by a renewal of the teeth." According to him, the great reduction in the size of the tusks in domestic boars probably stands in close relation with their diminished bristles. Then, after referring to the Burmese family and Julia Pastrana, Mr. Darwin says: "These cases forcibly call to mind the fact that the two orders of mammals—namely, the Edentata and Cetacea—which are the most abnormal in their dermal covering, are likewise the most abnormal by deficiency or redundancy of teeth."