Her Parents Abandoned Her At The Age Of 3, But Wild Dogs Raised Her As Their Own Feral Child

Stories of children raised by animals are popular in folklore and literature - The Jungle Book for one - but there are more documented cases of this happening in reality then you'd think. While few and far between, there have been incidents when orphaned or abandoned children were taken in by animals. Called feral children, such kids often fail to develop language and basic social skills. One such case involved a Ukranian child named Oxana Malaya. Neglected by alcoholic parents at age three, Malaya took refuge with a wild dog pack. 

After she was discovered - five years later - the world was captivated by the story of the girl raised by wild dogs. Malaya was the subject of many documentaries and articles over the years. She was dubbed the "Dog Girl" - a term she really doesn't prefer, who would? - and while her reintroduction into society has been difficult, she has successfully transitioned. Here's everything there is to know about how one girl survived living in the wild among animals.

  • After Five Years With Her Dog Pack, The Animals Tried To Protect Her From Authorities

    Oxana Malaya was discovered in Ukraine in 1994. According to accounts, a neighbor noticed there was a little girl living in the woods and contacted authorities. When Malaya was discovered, she was living with a pack of wild dogs.

    The dogs instinctively protected Malaya from the officers, having accepted her into their pack.They had to be bribed with treats so authorities could take Malaya. She was believed to have been living with the dogs for roughly five years.

  • Her Adoption By The Dogs Was Due To Horribly Negligent Parents

    While the details remain somewhat unclear, Malaya likely ended up in the care of the dog pack due to neglect on behalf of her negligent, alcoholic parents. When she was three, according to the story, her parents left her outside one night. Malaya crawled into a nearby hovel where wild dogs congregated.

    Her parents never tried to find her, so she ended up being adopted by the pack and forgetting basic language and social skills.

  • It Was Difficult For Her To Shed Her Dog-Like Tendencies

    Even years after being found, at 23, Malaya still displayed tendencies similar to wild dogs. She would shake her head when wet to get off the water. She would hide things given to her, much like a dog hides food or supplies. She also walked in a somewhat dog-like fashion and would still occasionally walk on all fours like a dog.

  • Her Intelligence Was High Considering Her Separation From Society

    When child psychologist Lyn Fry met with Malaya as part of a documentary, she was actually surprised with Malaya’s intelligence and overall development. Malaya's drawing skills matched that of a five or six-year-old and she had a sophisticated enough grasp of language to understand prepositions.

    She was also able to recognize herself in the mirror without trouble. Most feral children are much farther behind in terms of development.

  • Her Bark Sounds Exactly Like That Of A Dog

    Despite having been removed from her dog pack as a child, Malaya is still able to bark like a dog. Those who’ve heard her bark say the noise does not sound like a human imitating an animal. It truly sounds like a dog.

    During the rehabilitation process, Malaya eventually learned not to bark, since it's generally socially unacceptable. However, her caretakers suspect she still barks in private.

  • Malaya Was Once Unpredictable But Has Made Considerable Progress

    When British psychologist and expert on feral children, Lyn Fry, visited Malaya, he heard rumor that "she could fly off the handle, was very uncooperative, [and] socially inept." But Fry was impressed by the progress she'd made; when he offered Malaya a wooden toy, she thanked him.

    It was clear that Malaya was adapting to human society; Fry said, "Superficially, you would never know this was a young woman raised by dogs."