Nurture vs nature has long been a pivotal argument between the development of children and subsequently the actions of adults. Is a child born a certain way with these characteristics, or were those characteristics imprinted by their parents? Some philosophers argue that children are born like a blank slate, or ‘tabula rasa.’ The blank slate is essential an empty panel for parents and guardians to write and imprint on. As the children grow up, the blank slate becomes filled with different impressions and information until it is no longer a blank slate but an original, individual slate.
If life is simply nurture, and based on how we are brought up, then what happens when another species, besides a human, decides to raise us?
Here is a list of 5 children (out of 100 in the world) who were raised by animals.
1. Oxana Malaya. Known as the dog girl, is a pretty clear indicator that nurture plays a bigger role than nature. At merely 3 years old, her alcoholic parents paid her no mind and left her outside one night. Like all humans, she craved warmth and shelter so she crawled to the closest thing that could provide her with that, the dog kennel.
As she crawled into the dog kennel and ate what scraps they had left, she slowly began to become one of the pack and less like a human. Her parents hardly noticed that she was missing and it wasn’t until 5 years later that a neighbor notified the police that a little girl was being raised by dogs.
By the time she was found, she had lost all ability to speak, and was running on all fours. Once a child misses the chance to learn how to speak by age 5, it becomes nearly impossible for them to grow up with the abilities of human language.
She is now almost 34 years old and lives in a home for the mentally disabled. She tends to the farm animals but surprisingly doesn’t spend much time with her pet dog. Her tone is flat and emotionless and there is no rhythm to when she speaks.
Experts who have been to Ukraine to visit her say she has the mental capacity of a 6 year old and a low tolerance for boredom. She can follow directions well and loves to be the center of attention. When given anything, her first instinct is to hide it, just like a dog with a bone.
2. Marcos Rodriguez Pantoja. Known as the wolf man, is a Spaniard who lived alone from the age of 7 to 19. His father, who was poor, was forced to sell him to a wealthy landowner who in turn sold him as labor to a goatherd. Initially they were both apprehensive of each other. The goatherd enjoying his reclusive lifestyle and the young boy unaccustomed to a foreign place.
Through time the two built a relationship and an affection towards each other. The goatherd taught Marcos how to fend for himself in the wilderness and also how to trap and catch.
Unfortunately, the goatherd died shortly afterwards and for the next 12 years he would have no connection to human beings. His only form of companionship was that of a pack of wolves.
In an interview, Marcos said that at 7 years old and left alone, he saw some wolf pups and began playing with them. He followed them to their den and shortly after fell asleep there.
When he awoke, the mother wolf was staring at him, and in a state of fright, he hid in a hollow until the mother wolf approached him and started licking him. That’s when he knew he was a part of the pack.
He hunted with his wolf pack until he was 19 years old and then the police came and forced him back into civilization. The transition was tough on Marcos but to this day he can still imitate the call of a wolf, an eagle, a deer, and many other animals. His ability to speak stems from the fact that he was raised with language up to the age of 7.
When he was forced to integrate back into society, many people didn’t believe his story. Not until a movie came out about his life (Entre Lobos) did people apologize for the way they acted towards him.
To this day, Marcos doesn’t feel entirely at home in society. He says that out in the wild life is simple, if you want fish you catch it, if you want meat, you hunt with the pack. But in society, without money you are nothing.
3. Vanya Yudin. Probably the most recent case, Vanya Yudin is a Russian boy who was raised as a bird. His single mother never spoke a word to him and treated him as if he was one of her pet birds.
She would only feed him whatever she fed her pets and never interacted with her son. Vanya lived in a literal aviary with hundreds of birds in the two bedroom apartment.
Up until the age of 7, he could not speak and only communicated with the birds. He learned to talk to his only friends (the birds) via chirping. He would flap his arms and hands as if he owned a pair of wings. When social workers found Vanya, they realized that he was neither beaten or underfed. He was just severely neglected by his 31-year-old mother at the time. Soon after, she signed an abdication form giving up responsibility of her son.
4. John Ssebunya. He is a Ugandan boy known for having lived with monkeys. At just two years old he witnessed his father murder his mother. He fled from his home for safety.
For three years he lived with a family of monkeys known as the green vervets who not only taught him their customs but also how to survive in the jungle! When a nearby tribe discovered John, the monkeys would throw sticks and stones to prevent John from being carried off!
When they took him to a Christian orphanage they realized he was severely malnourished, covered in hair and visibly ill. There were scars all over his knees indicating that he hadn’t yet learned how to walk.
Furthermore, he couldn’t tolerate cooked food and when he would defecate, there would be worms over half a meter long!
Since then, he’s been reinstated back into society and been taught how to speak and even sing. He became one of the most famous members of The Pearl of Africa’s Children’s Choir.
In an interview he stated that he was so scared of going home that he decided to stay in the forest. He said that the monkeys were nice to him, loved him, would play with him and even brought him food!
5. Marina Chapman. She is another woman who was apparently raised by monkeys. Although her story has come under some suspicion, she maintains that she was kidnapped at five years old and dropped off at a jungle.
She cannot remember where the jungle is (only that it is probably in Colombia) nor can she remember the species of the monkeys. (Though many speculate that they are Capuchins as they are well accustomed to humans.)
After realizing no one would come rescue her she chanced upon a family of monkeys. She was jealous of their tight knit bond but the monkeys paid her no mind. It wasn’t until she got food poisoning that an elderly monkey (which she named Grandpa) guided her to a muddy pond and forced her to drink from it. She then threw up but slowly got better.
From that point on she felt like she belonged with the family. Marina began learning how to clean herself, what to eat, and that if she stayed below the monkeys who were carrying handfuls of bananas up in the trees, she was bound to get some that would inevitably fall out of their hands.
When she saw some hunters and poachers in the forest, she approached them using grunts and they took her back to society. However, they didn’t take her back to safety. Instead, they sold her to a brothel where she was forced to clean.
Eventually she escaped, got married, and now has 2 grown daughters. Her daughters pushed her to publicize her story which came under a lot of heat for having a controversial subtitle: ‘The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys.”