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Genetics

Updated 27 February 2018

Meet 'Wolf Man' – the hairiest man on Earth

Larry Gomez was born with a rare condition which causes hair to grow over most of his body.

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He's been dubbed "Wolf Man" and was bullied because of the way he looks, but today Victor "Larry" Gomez embraces the condition he was born with.

Gomez was born with congenital generalised hypertrichosis (CGH), which means 98% of his body is covered in thick hair.

This uncommon condition runs in the Gomez family. In an interview with the Daily Mail, he mentioned that his family holds the Guinness World Record for the largest, hairiest family in 2000. His brother, Gabriel, is as hairy as Larry.

When asked how he lives with the condition, he said, "I live with it because I have it; I don't know other ways. This is my normal life and I'm used to having it."

He emphasised that he was bullied for the way he looks, and while his real name is Victor, he prefers Larry. The name comes from the 1941 film The Wolf Man, where the main character, The Wolf Man, was called Larry Talbot.

What is hypertrichosis?

DermNet NZ describes hypertrichosis as excessive hair growth all over the body except on areas such as the lips and mucous membranes.

There are several types of hypertrichosis, and the condition can either be congenital or acquired, which means you can be born with it, like Larry and his siblings, or develop it later in life.

The condition affects men and women, but men generally grow more and thicker hair than women.

The Genetic and Rare Disease Information Centre states that the condition is X-linked, which means the disorder is predominantly associated with the X chromosome.

These X-linked dominant disorders may be more obvious in males because they only have one X chromosome, while being slightly impaired in females because they have two X chromosomes.

Information on the condition is limited and treatments available include laser hair removal, waxing and shaving. Dermatologists also offer a topical chemical option.

Run away and join the circus

Previously, when medical technology and science were not as advanced, people like Gomez were regarded as freaks of nature. Circus boss PT Barnum took advantage of this by bringing Russian-born Fedor Jeftichew (known as Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy, pictured below) to America to join his circus.

Jeftichew had congenital generalised hypertrichosis, as did his dad, Adrian, who is believed to have performed in a French circus before touring with his son in America.

Fedor Adrian Jeftichew P.T. Barnum circus freaks c


The difference between hypertrichosis and hirsutism

While hypertrichosis – hair growth over most of the body – affects both men and women, hirsutism mostly affects women. Affected women have excessive hair growth in areas that are commonly hairy in men – such as a beard, and chest and back hair.

An example of hirsutism is the Bearded Lady, Annie Jones Elliot, who was also one of Barnum's "freaks".

Annie Jones Lettie Lutz P.T. Barnum circus attract


Many modern women are affected by hirsutism and are still shamed, bullied and ostracised because of their condition.

Rose Geil and Harnaam Kaur are two examples of women who were diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), resulting in hirsutism.

PCOS is an incurable condition and it causes a hormone imbalance. Women with PCOS tend to have higher androgen (male hormone) levels, resulting in male-pattern hair growth.

According to DermNetNZ, hirsutism could also be caused by a number of other conditions, such as Cushing's syndrome and congenital adrenal hyperplasia (two conditions that result when the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol and androgen).

While the condition is treated with medication, women have used laser hair treatment and other hair removal techniques to manage excessive hair growth.

Many women, like Kaur and Geil, have stopped removing their excess hair and embrace their appearance and condition.

You’ve just set your eyes on a woman who was so abused that she felt the need to be free of the person that she is. To become someone else in order to fit in or blend. I used to hate everything about my skin. Even thinking about it and writing about it now makes me sick. I know my skin is watching the words that I write about her. Fact is, the things that I was made to feel ashamed about are the exact same things that I wholeheartedly love and adore! MY stretch marks, MY scars, MY hair, MY vitiligo, MY EVERYTHING! That what we wish we could’ve changed when we were young, is exactly what makes us who we are when we are older! We mature and realise what is important in life! What legacy will you leave behind? What will people recognise or know you for? How are you helping to change your world? In my skin I win, I conquer, I am Free! In my skin I am complete! #inmyskin @wearestoosh #inourskin

A post shared by Harnaam Kaur (@harnaamkaur) on

Do you, or someone you know, have an unusual condition and would like to share your story? Email healthnews@health24.com and we may publish it. Please indicate if you wish to remain anonymous.

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