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Krau Farini

Written by: George Chittenden : 20 Jan 2020

This unusual photo was taken in 1883 by the photography studio W. & D. Downey. It features entertainment promoter, William Leonard Hunt, on the right. William Leonard Hunt is better known by his stage name ‘The Great Farini’, and he lived quite a life. Showbusiness aside he was the first known white man to cross the Kalahari Desert on foot and live to tell the tale. He is also credited with inventing the world famous circus act, the human cannonball in 1876.

The little girl on the right is known in the history books as Krau Farini, however she was also known by many other stage names such as ‘The Bearded Lady’, ’The Missing Link’ and ‘The Ape-Woman'. How this little girl ended up as a sideshow performer in America we may never know for sure as several different accounts exist, and as you can imagine her origin story was fictionalised to sell more circus tickets.

We do know though that she originally came from modern day Laos in Asia and that both parents suffered from the same condition. Prior to leaving Asia, Krao's mother was detained in Bangkok and her father died from cholera. Farini adopted Krau, and By 1883, she was performing in Europe as an example of a missing link between humanity and apes and proof of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. We now know she was simply born with a condition known as Hypertrichosis, which is simply an abnormal amount of hair growth over the body.

In 1884 when she was eight or nine years old she was taken to Philadelphia, and she spent over two decades performing for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus. Krau died from influenza on April 16th, 1926 in New York.

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