Feral children are human children who, from a very young age, have lived away from human interaction and have little to no knowledge of human care, love to social conduct, and, crucially, human language.
Feral children are kept in isolation by humans (often parents), raised by animals, or live in the wild. There have been more than one hundred recorded cases of feral kids and this is a list of ten.
10. Feral Children: Shamdeo
A boy aged about four was discovered in the Musafirkhana forest, about 20 miles from Sultanpur, in May 1972. The boy played with wolf cubs. He had very dark skin on his wrists, elbows and knees, with long hooked fingernails, matted hair and calluses. He shared with Kamala and Amala many characteristics: sharp teeth, blood cravings, earth-eating, chicken-hunting, love of darkness and friendship with dogs and jackals.
He was called Shamdeo and brought to Narayanpur village. He never spoke, but learned some sign language, even though he was weaned off raw meat. In 1978, he was re-titled Pascal and visited by the Bruce Chatwin in the Mother Theresa’s House for the Destitute and Dying in Lucknow. He died that year in February.
9. The Wild Girl of Champagne
Before her abandonment, Champagne’s wild girl possibly had learned to speak, for she is a rare case of a wild child learning to speak coherently. Her diet was composed of birds, frogs, fish, leaves, branches, and roots. She promptly skinned over a rabbit and devoured it. According to a contemporary witness, the renowned scientist Charles Marie de la Condamine, “her fingers, particularly her thumbs, were extraordinarily big.”
She is said to have been using her thumbs to dig out the roots and swing like a monkey from tree to tree. She was a very fast runner and her eyesight was phenomenally sharp. When the Queen of Poland, the French Queen’s mother, passed through Champagne in 1737 to take control of the Duchy of Lorraine, she learned of the girl and took her hunt, where she outran and killed rabbits.
8. John Ssebunya
One day in 1991, in search of firewood, a Ugandan villager called Milly Sebba went farther than usual and came across a little boy with a group of monkeys. She called for help and a tree was cornered up to the boy. He was taken back to the village of Milly. From walking on them, his knees were almost white. His nails were very long, curled round and he was not educated in the building.
The villager identified the boy as John Sesebunya, the last to be seen before his father killed his mother and died in 1988 at the age of two or three. He lived in the wild for the next three years or so. After a few days, he distinctly recalls monkeys coming up to him and offering him roots and nuts, sweet potatoes and kasava.
At first, the five monkeys, two of them young, were cautious, but within about two weeks they befriended him and taught him, he says, to ride with them, to look for food, and to climb trees. He is now about 33 years old, and, as part of the 20-strong Pearl of Africa Children’s Choir, he went to Britain in October 1999.
7. The Syrian Gazelle Boy
In 1960, Jean-Claude Auger, an anthropologist from the Basque Region, travelled by himself through the Spanish Sahara (Rio de Oro) when he met some Nemadi nomads who told him about a day’s journey away from a wild child. He followed the orders of the nomads the next day.
“He saw a nude boy on the horizon” galloping in gigantic bounds amid a long white gazelle cavalcade. The boy walked on all fours but sometimes adopted an upright gait, indicating to Auger that at around seven or eight months he was abandoned or lost, having already learned to stand.
In reaction to the slightest noise, he habitually twitched his muscles, scalp, nose and ears, just like the rest of the herd. Through his teeth, he would chew desert roots and puck his nostrils like the gazelles. Apart from the occasional agama lizard or worm, he tended to be herbivorous when plant life was missing.
His edges of teeth were as level as those of a herbivorous mammal. In 1966, an unsuccessful effort was made to trap the boy in a net suspended from a helicopter; the gazelle boy had never been separated from his wild friends, unlike most of the feral children we have reports of.
6. Oxana Malaya
Oxana Malaya (born November 1983) was found in Ukraine in 1991 as an 8-year-old feral child, having spent much of her life in the company of dogs. She took on a variety of dog-like habits and found it hard to learn the language. Oxana’s drunken parents couldn’t take care of her.
They lived in a destitute area where wild dogs roamed the streets. She stayed behind her house in a dog kennel where she had been cared for by dogs and observed their habits and etiquette. Like a wild dog, she groaned, barked and crouched, sniffed at her food before eating it, and was discovered to have developed exceptionally sensitive senses of hearing, smell, and sight.
5. Prava, the Bird Boy
Mowgli Syndrome’s most recent case was that of a seven-year-old boy who was saved by Russian health care workers after being found living with his mother in a two-bedroom apartment and an assortment of feathered mates. The tiny apartment may seem to have doubled as an aviary with cages loaded with tens of birds.
One of his rescuers, Social Worker Galina Volskaya, said in an interview that he was treated like another pet by his mum. While he was never physically harmed by his mother, she simply never spoke to him. It was the birds who talked to the boy.
“He just chirps and when realising that he is not understood, starts to wave hands in the way birds winnow wings.” Quote from Social Worker, Galina Volskaya.
4. The Leopard Boy
EC Stuart Baker published a leopard-child in the Journal of the Natural History Society of Bombay (July 1920). The boy was abducted from his parents by a leopard in the North Cachar Hills near Assam in about 1912, and rescued and named three years later. “At the time the boy ran as hard as an adult could, although his weaving inside and out bushes and other obstacles was cleverer and quicker.
There were rough callosities on his knees and his toes were held upright almost at right angles to his instep. He also coated the palms of his hands and pads of his toes and thumbs with very rough horny skin. He bit and fought with everyone when he was first captured and any wretched village fowl that came within his reach was grabbed, torn to pieces and eaten with exceptional rapidity.
3. Kamala and Amala
The most famous wolf-children are the two girls captured by villagers in October 1920, under the leadership of the Anglican missionary Reverend J.A.L Singh, from a huge abandoned ant-hill squatted by wolves near Godamuri in the vicinity of Midnapore, west of Calcutta.
They shot the mother wolf. The girls were called Kamala and Amala and were assumed to be about eight and two years old. The girls had disfigured teeth, elongated canines, and eyes that shone in the dark with the strange blue glow of cats and dogs, according to Singh. Amala died the next year but Kamala survived until she gave up eating carrion in 1929, learned to walk upright and spoke about fifty words.
2. The Bear Girl
George Maranz described a 1937 visit to a Turkish lunatic asylum in Bursa, Turkey, where he met a girl who had been living with bears for many years. Hunters shot a she-bear in a mountainous forest near Adana and then were struck by a strong little “wood spirit.”
Overcome at last, this turned out to be a human girl, but in her voice, habits and physique utterly bearlike. She turned down all the cooked food and slept in a dark corner of her room on a mattress. Investigations found that a two-year-old girl had vanished 14 years earlier from a neighbouring village, and it was believed that she had been adopted by a bear.
1. Wild Peter
Wild Peter, “a nude, brownish, black-haired creature,” caught near Helpensen in Hanover in 1724 when he was about 12, was the first very famous feral child. He easily climbed trees, lived off plants and seemed incapable of speaking. He rejected food, preferring to strip the bark of green twigs and suck on the sap; but finally, he learned to eat fruits and vegetables.
He was introduced to George I at the Hanover court and taken to England, where he was examined by the leading men of letters. He spent 68 years in society, but never learned to say anything beyond “Peter” and “King George,” while “especially acute” was his hearing and sense of smell.