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No. 108: Nov-Dec 1996

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Hairy Rarity

Ordinarily, we avoid two-headed snakes, six-legged calves, and the like. Sometimes biological machinery sputters a bit and freaks (terata) result, just as Detroit assembly lines turn out lemons once in a while. Occasionally, though, we come across a defect so rare and curious that we must pass it along. So, here is the Summary of a serious scientific paper, along with a sketch, that satisfies our Fortean urge.

"A Burmese family with congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa [excessive hairiness] had an eventful history in the nineteenth century. The earlier members of this family were employed at the court of Ava, but the later ones spent their lives in show business, being widely exhibited for money in the 1800s. Their extraordinary hairiness attracted much curiosity, and they were photographed several times. The hairy Burmese are the only example of a fourgeneration pedigree of congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa, which is consistent with an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance. There is good evidence that, when members of this family were hairy, their dentition was also deficient."

(Bondeson, J., and Miles, A.E.W.; "The Hairy Family of Burma: A Four Generation Pedigree of Congenital Hypertrichosis Lanuginosa," Royal Society of Medicine, Journal, 89:403, 1996. Cr. A.C.A. Silk)

Reference. Excessively hairy people are cataloged at BHA26 in our Biological Anomalies: Humans I. For additional information on this book, visit here.

Hairy 31-year-old Burmese woman Hairy 31-year-old Burmese woman with her 14-month-old son, who has long hair growing from his ear.

From Science Frontiers #108, NOV-DEC 1996. � 1996-2000 William R. Corliss