Feral Children

The following sample Psychology essay is 2105 words long, in MLA format, and written at the undergraduate level. It has been downloaded 982 times and is available for you to use, free of charge.

1. Introduction

Feral children are human children who have lived, from a very young age, away from all human contact. These children have absolutely no experience with human language, social behavior, and care. They are often confined by a human (typically their parents), live in the wild all alone, or are brought up by animals. The more well-known feral children include such cases as Victor the Wild Boy, Peter of King George’s court, and the wild girl of Champagne. Feral children, though seemingly uncivilized and impaired, often exhibit incredible survival skills and have miraculously adapted to their difficult living conditions. Their endurance is truly a testament to their survival instincts, mental and emotional strength, and adaptability as they are able to thrive in an environment that most assume would be their end.

2. The Wild Girl of Champagne

The story of the wild girl of Champagne, France was extremely well documents for her time, the eighteenth century. She spent ten years alone in the forests of France, surviving on birds, frogs, leaves, and roots. She carried a club and used it to fight off wild animals, particularly wolves (Frank). She was captured at the age of nineteen and given the nickname Memmie; she was hairy, had sharp claws for nails, and was so dirty that her skin was black. Once living amongst humans, she continued to makes repeated sideways glances like an animal whenever she drank water as a result of being in a constant state of alert (Frank). Memmie would chase rabbits outdoors, skin them with her bare hands, and eat them raw; in fact, the refused to eat cooked food for years. It is documented that her hands were very large and her thumbs were deformed from years of digging up roots and swinging from tree branches (Keith). She originally was only able to communicate in strange squeaks or shrieking noises, but it is believed that she knew how to speak before her abandonment, as she eventually learned to speak coherently (Haughton). The Queen of Poland took an interest in Memmie in 1737 and brought her hunting with her. According to accounts, she was able to outrun and catch rabbits (Keith). Thanks to her many wealthy patrons, she learned to read, write, and speak fluent French. She eventually became a nun and died in comfort at the age of sixty three.

3. Victor 

Victor is another wild child of France. He was found just at the end of the eighteenth century in the woods of Saint Sernin sur Rance but managed to escape. The boy found again in 1800 at the age of twelve, wandering the forests near Aveyron, France. Victor was naked, did not speak, and had many scars and markings on his body that indicated that he had been living in the wilderness for some time. Upon his capture, he refused to be touched or let anyone wash him, seemed to have no desire for human contact, and had a tendency towards violent outbursts (Frank). Though it is not known for sure, those who studied him believed that he had been alone in the woods for seven years. His years in isolation had led him to develop an odd sort of selective hearing. While he was able to ignore the sound of a pistol being fired near him, the sound of a walnut cracking would cause him to startle and perk up (Andrews). Officials in France believed that Victor was unable to speak because he was mentally disabled. However, a professor of biology, Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard felt it would be possible to teach Victor language and began examining the boy (“Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron”). Itard was the one who named the boy ‘Victor’ and worked with the wild boy for many years. He wanted to test the boy’s unusual resistance to extreme temperatures so he sent Victor out into the snow naked. Miraculously, the foundling showed no signs of being effected by the frigid temperatures whatsoever (Frank). Itard was eventually able to teach the boy to bathe, wear proper clothes, and exhibit some signs of empathy (Keith). Teaching him language proved to be a bit more difficult. Though Victor was able to understand basic questions and commands, he was never able to speak a full sentence. He died in an institution in Paris when he was forty years old. 

4. Peter the Wild Boy

During the summer months in 1725, a mute and naked adolescent boy was discovered living in the woods in Germany. He was described to be naked, dark-skinned, and have wild black hair (Keith). The boy had been living off plants, roots, and tree sap and had been seen climbing trees as quickly and skillfully as an animal. He was captured and brought to the British king, George I. King George took a liking to the boy and the boy became a regular at court. Christened ‘Peter’, he became the most popular man in London and was often presented to guests like a party favor (Andrews). The way he walked on all fours, his lack of table manners, and his habit for picking pockets and trying to steal kisses from noblewomen made him a fascinating sight for King George’s court. Despite his wild popularity, Peter was never able to be civilized. He continued to sleep on the floor and never learned to say anymore more than ‘Peter’ and ‘King George’ (Keith). Because of his obvious preference for simpler things, Peter was sent to live in the country, where he stayed until the age of eighty, after spending sixty eight years in society. His story has sparked the interest of such minds as Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe, but the truth of how he came to live in the woods alone has never been revealed (Moorhouse). However, some researchers suspect that Peter may have been abandoned in the woods to begin with because he seemed to suffer from a rare neurological disorder called Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, characterized by the in ability to develop language and the clear existence of learning disabilities (Andrews). Peter remains one of the most well-known feral children in documented history. 

5. Prava the Bird Boy

The most recent feral child case occurred in 2008 in Russia. Prava was seven years old when he was discovered by Russian healthcare workers to be living in a two-bedroom apartment with his mother, who kept him locked in a room with dozens of pet birds. He lived with his feathery friends among their feathers and droppings. Hi mother did not ever physically harm hum, but she never spoke to him either (Keith). She treated him more like a pet than a child, keeping him fed but never showing him the socialization and affection necessary for proper growth and development. Instead, Prava spoke to his birds. He chirped at them and seemed to understand their behavior. When the social workers who tried to help him did not understand him, he grew frustrated and would wave his arms the way an agitated bird flaps its wings (Frank). He was released from his mother’s care and now resides in a center for psychological care, where doctors and therapists are working to rehabilitate him. 

6. The Leopard Boy

The Leopard Boy of India was taken by a female leopard in 1912 when he was two years old. He was taken from his parents in a village in the North Cachar Hills in Assam. Three years later, a hunter shot and killed the leopardess and found her three cubs, one of which was the boy. He was returned to his family in the village, but continued to squat and run on all fours. When running through the forest and avoiding obstacles and bushes, he was quicker than a grown man (Keith). Hard callouses covered his knees and his toes were bent upwards, almost at right angles to his instep (Frank). His palms and the pads of his toes and fingers were covered in hard, tough skin. Upon his capture, he tried to attack anyone who approached him, speaking only in growls. Any birds that happened by were quickly caught and torn apart. The boy eventually learned to walk in a more upright position and speak. Sadly, though, he gradually became blind from cataracts, something that was common in his family and not seen as a result of his time in the jungle.

7. Oxana Malaya

Oxana, from Ukraine, was found in 1991 at the age of eight. She was living in a kennel with wild dogs and had been doing so for six years. Her parents were alcoholics who were rarely in any state to take care of her. One night, they forgot about her and left her outside in the cold. They lived in a very impoverished area that had stray dogs roaming the streets in packs. Oxana crawled into a farm kennel full of the mongrel dogs for warmth. Spending so much time with the dogs led her to accumulate some very dog-like behaviors, including growling, barking, acute sense of hearing, smell, and sight, and sniffing her food before she ate it (Keith). Oxana ran on all fours and panted with her tongue hanging out of her mouth. With intensive therapy, she was able to learn basic language and social skills, but is limited to the abilities of a five year old (Frank). Today, she lives in Odessa in a clinic where she helps care for the animals on the hospital’s farm. 

8. Kamala and Amala

Another better-known case of feral children is actually a case of two sisters. They were found in October of 1920 near Midnapore and Culcutta. Joseph Singh, a reverend, had been advised that the girls lived in a wolves’ den and he waited in a tree for the wolves to emerge. When the wolves left the cave, he saw the girls peering out from the darkness and he soon captured them (Candland 56). They were incredibly dirty, ran on all fours, and were estimated to be ages eight and two. The older one was name Kamala and the name Amala was given to the younger one. Their jaws were misshapen, they seemed to be able to see in the dark, and they had elongated canine teeth (Keith). Once captured, they slept curled together, howled and growled at other people, tore off any clothing anyone attempted to get them to wear, and ate nothing but raw meat. Their joints and tendons in their arms and legs were shortened and they had no interest at all in interacting with other humans. They had exceptional senses of hearing, sight, and smell, much like the wolves who had taken them in. Unfortunately, Amala died the year after they were captured; Kamala, though, survived her sister. In that time, she had learned to eat a more regular human diet, was able to walk upright, and learned to speak about fifty words (Keith). She died at the age of seventeen in 1929 as a result of kidney failure.

9. Conclusion

Though they seem to be something out of a book or movie, feral children are not terribly unheard of, nor are they a thing of the past. Unfortunately, children are neglected all the time. Some have the opportunity and wherewithal to adapt to their surroundings; that sometimes means they have to become acclimated to living in isolation with animal companions, taking on their characteristics as a means for survival. The incredible survival skills and instincts of these feral children are nothing short of astounding and a testament to the human spirit. These stories reach back as far as documented human history stretches and have been reported as recently as within a decade. Regardless of the year or circumstances in which they have lived, these feral children never fail to capture interest and attention.

Works Cited

Andrews, Evan. “6 Famous Wild Children from History”. History. A&E Television Networks, LLC., 3 Feb. 2013. Web. 15 Jul. 2016. < http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/6- famous-wild-children-from-history>

Candland, Douglas Keith. Feral Children and Clever Animals: Reflections on Human Nature. Oxford: Oxford University, 1993. Print.

Frank, Priscilla. “Photographer Brings Unbelievable Stories of Feral Children to Life.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 29 Sep. 2015. Web. 15 Jul. 2016.


Haughton, Brian. “Feral Children”. Mysterious People. Brian Haughton, 2002. Web. 15 Jul. 2016. <http://www.mysteriouspeople.com/feral_child.htm>

Keith, Fritha. “10 Modern Cases of Feral Children”. ListVerse. ListVerse, 07 Mar. 2008. Web. 15 Jul. 2016. < http://listverse.com/2008/03/07/10-modern-cases-of-feral-children/>

Moorhouse, Roger. “Peter the Wild Boy”. History Today. History Today LTD., Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Jul. 2016. <http://www.historytoday.com/roger-moorhouse/peter-wild-boy>

 “Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron”. French Entrée. FrenchEntrée.com, n.d. Web. 15 Jul. 20116. <https://www.frenchentree.com/holidays-in-france/local-holiday-guides/victor-of- aveyron/>