Tue. May 24th, 2022

According to legend, the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were abandoned as toddlers and had to be suckled by a wolf until they were rediscovered by a traveling shepherd. They eventually built the huge city on Palatine Hill, the precise spot where the wolf had looked after them. This is most likely a fiction, yet there are actual stories of children who were reared by animals throughout history.

Although the reality for these feral children is rarely as romanticized as it was for Romulus and Remus (feral children are frequently hampered by cognitive and behavioral disabilities), their stories can occasionally be a testament to the human will to survive, as well as other animals’ tender maternal instinct.

1. Ukrainian dog girl

From the age of three to eight, Oxana Malaya was forced to live in a kennel by her abusive and neglectful parents. She had no other companions than the dogs she shared the kennel with. She was unable to communicate when she was discovered in 1991, opting instead to bark and running around on all fours. Malaya, now in her twenties, has been trained to speak, although she is still mentally handicapped. She has found some solace in caring for cows on a farm close to the mental institution where she is housed.

2. Cambodian jungle girl

Rochom P’ngieng became lost and inexplicably disappeared while herding buffalo along the jungle’s edge in Cambodia when he was eight years old. A villager caught sight of a naked woman prowling around his land attempting to steal rice eighteen years later, in 2007. The girl had grown into a 30-year-old lady who had somehow survived on her own in the deep forest, and had been identified as the long-lost Rochom P’ngieng thanks to a characteristic scar on her back. She returned to the wild in May 2010, unable to acquire the local language or adjust to the local customs. Since then, there have been conflicting claims regarding her whereabouts, including one concerning her reappearance in a deep, underground latrine near her home in June 2010.

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