Hypertrichosis is a condition where an individual grows an excessive amount of hair on any part of their body. It is quite different from hirsutism which is commonly found in women only. Hypertrichosis, on the other hand, can occur in both genders and is believed to be a genetic disorder caused by spontaneous mutation. One particular person was quite popular because of this disease and was called the lion-faced man.
Stephan Bibrowski, also known as Lionel the Lion-Faced Man, had 8-inch-long hair, which covered his entire face. His mother abandoned him when he was four. She had witnessed a lion mauling her husband while she was pregnant with Stephan and thus saw him as an abomination.
Who was Stephan Bibrowski?
Stephan Bibrowski, better known as Lionel the Lion-faced Man, was a famous sideshow performer who was born in 1890 and died in 1932. His entire body was covered in long hair, giving him the uncanny appearance of a lion; this was most likely due to a rare condition known as hypertrichosis.
Hypertrichosis also known as werewolf disease, is characterized by hair growth on areas of the body that would not normally be covered in hair. The hair can grow to longer lengths in extreme cases, such as Bibrowski’s. Other well-known sideshow performers, such as bearded ladies, wolfmen, and Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy, are examples of cases of hypertrichosis.
Bibrowski was born in Bielsk, near Pock, in Congress Poland. He had about 2.5 cm of hair covering his entire body when he was born. His father was mauled by a lion, and his mother blamed his condition on this event since she witnessed it while pregnant with him. Bibrowski was an abomination to her, so she gave him up to a German impresario named Sedlmayer when he was just four years old. (Source: All Things Interesting)
How Did Stephan Bibrowki Become Famous?
Sedlmayer gave him a stage name and began touring Europe with him. By this time, Lionel’s hair had grown to 20 cm on his face and hung about 10 cm everywhere else by the time he was put on display. His entire body was covered in hair, except the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet. Lionel traveled to the United States in 1901 and began performing with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He stayed with the troupe for about 19 years. From that point on, he toured with the circus, returning to Europe on occasion.
Lionel performed gymnastic tricks and also spoke to the audience to demonstrate his gentle demeanor, which contrasted sharply with his appearance. He arrived in the United States in 1920 and quickly became a popular attraction. He eventually relocated to New York City, where he was a fixture at Coney Island.
By the late 1920s, Lionel had retired from his sideshow work and returned to Germany. He was reported to have died of a heart attack in Berlin in 1932, at the age of 41. (Source: All Things Interesting)