Can people have tails

People who were cut off

[691]People who were cut off. Up to our enlightened times the fable has survived: that somewhere in distant lands there are peoples to whom nature has given a real tail. The fact often asserted even had something alluring to the natural scientist; Because, according to Darwin’s theory, such a tailed human race could be regarded as the forerunner of the genus “human”, a transition stage between the modern European and the large number of tailed quadrupeds. Once the belief in the truth of this fable was widespread, and in ancient times even the most enlightened spirits paid homage to it. Scholars such as Pliny and Ptolemy told in their works that there were people with tails in the interior of Africa and on islands that were supposed to be behind the Ganges, and Greek writers also reported of such peoples, who were usually called satyrs. Sometimes they should have dog tails, sometimes goat tails, or tails much smaller than those of horses.

The spiritual tendency of the Middle Ages was least able to shed light on these fantastic tales. The spirits of that time clung to these traditions with particular fondness, and so, besides the tailed devil, whole tailed peoples also hung around in the imaginations of our ancestors. With the advance of science and geographical discoveries, however, the presumed fatherland of that strange race also receded into ever greater distances. Now such human beings appeared in America, now in Africa, now in Asia, and finally their home was reduced to the narrow district of the Rear Indian Archipelago, where, in recent times, various travelers claim to have seen people with tails.

In some cases the error has been cleared up by closer investigation. So indicates z. B. Schweinfurth the origin of the fable of the tails of the Niam-Niam in the interior of Africa as follows: The warriors of that tribe adorn their bare hips with the fur of the civet cat or that of a long-tailed monkey and now let the tails of these animals hang down from behind . Seen from a distance, these savages really appear to be tailed - only the tails are artificial and not natural. Anyway, a strange taste in fashion!

On the other hand, the expedition, which our compatriot Carl Bock has recently taken, was very cheerful[1] organized on the island of Borneo to visit the land of the tailed race. When he toured the Sultanate of Kutei and came near Tangarung, Carl Bock learned that he was only a short distance from the homeland of this people who were to live in the Sultanate of Passir and on the Teweh River.

The inflected were no less firmly convinced of the truth of their story than Pliny and Ptolemy once were. Tjiropon, an old and faithful servant of the sultan, assured our compatriot in the presence of his highness that he himself had seen the "orang-buntut", that is, the tail people, in Passir a few years ago. The tail-like appendage of these people should be two to four inches long, according to Tjiropon’s serious assurances, and besides, these people would have small holes in the floor in their houses into which they would stick their tails to sit comfortably.

[692] The humorous ending of this story seemed to the German traveler to question the credibility of the report, but since the Sultan assured that Tjiropon had never dared to lie in his face, Bock decided to go on an expedition to the named with large gifts To determine Passir. Tjiropon was also promised a reward of five hundred guilders if he would bring a couple of these people safely to the Dutch territory. Armed with letters of recommendation from the Sultan and an escort of fifteen men, Tjiropon embarked on his important mission.

The old servant returned after a long time very dejected and declared that he had seen the Sultan of Passir and had also delivered the letter from His Highness of Kutei, but had not seen any truant people.

With the help of the resident of Bandjermasin, however, a second expedition of four Malayans was sent to Passir with a letter to the sultan there, in which he was asked whether a race of truant people really lived in or near Passir. At the same time, His Highness was asked to send some of these people if possible. After twenty-five days the expedition returned and brought some interesting information. Tjiropon actually delivered the letter to the Sultan of Passir, in which the Sultan of Kutei asked him for two tail-men. But at this letter the ardent gentleman became very angry. His entourage or his servants were all called "Orang-buntut di Sultan di Passir", which means "tail people of the Sultan of Passir", and His Highness considered it an insult that his royal cousin had two men in his bodyguard demanded. He ordered Tjiropon to leave immediately.

"If the Sultan of Kutei needs my orang-buntut," he said, "he should fetch it himself"

In the meantime, however, he was preparing for war: for he considered that letter a challenge. The second letter, however, cleared up the error, and the Sultan let it be said that he knew of no other orang-buntut than his suite, which was so called.

So this was the result of the latest expedition to the land of the tail-men. But does that mean that none of those travelers have seen a son of the earth with a tail at all? We have no reason to believe so; for there are sometimes people who are born with a tail-like appendage, and one does not need to go to the Malay Islands to find them. Only the stories of whole races, which are said to be endowed with this attribute of the animal world, are to be referred to the realm of fable.

The very rare cases in which tail-like appendages or even real tails were actually observed in humans in Europe, we may assume to be just as well known as the fact that every human being has a stunted tail in his tailbone vertebrae.



  1. ↑ We take this opportunity to refer to the recently published work “Unter Cannibalen auf Borneo”, in which Carl Bock reports the results of his trips to Borneo and Sumatra for scientific purposes in an extremely attractive and generally understandable form. The very tasteful furnishing of these works, which are rich in illustrations, does the company whose publishers published it (Hermann Costenoble, Jena), to the full credit.