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.
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.
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.
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.
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.