FEDOR JEFTICHEIVE – Jo-Jo The Dog-Faced Boy

In 1873, Europe became acquainted with a wolf man. A 55 year old Russian man named Adrian Jefticheiev, covered in hair, began to appear at various exhibitions. He was accompanied by his equally hairy illegitimate son. The ‘Wild Man from the Kostroma Forest’ was billed as being the product of an affair between a bear and a Russian peasant woman. In reality he was a man afflicted with hypertrichosis very much like his predecessor Petrus Gonzales. However, while Gonzales was a gentle civilized soul trapped within an animalistic body Adrian lived up to his wild appearance.

Early in his life, Adrian fled his village and became something of a forest hermit. His taste for alcohol spiraled out of control and he was, by all accounts, a cruel drunk. Many visitors to his exhibition were disgusted by his unkempt and debauched appearance. His appearance was in stark contrast to that of his toddler son, Fedor. The young boy, his features not yet obscured by a thick growth of hair, charmed audiences with his impish attitude and inquisitive nature. He relished speaking to audiences in their native languages.

As quickly as they appeared, the pair disappeared. Nearly a decade later a young man billed as Theodore Petroff appeared and began a long career in sideshow.European audiences were told that hunters found young Theodore in the wild, captured him, taught him to be civilized and set him on to tour the world. In reality he was Fedor Jefticheive. His father, after returning from his 1873 European tour, promptly drank himself to death with his earnings.

In 1884 the wolf boy met one of P. T. Barnum’s many talent agents during a tour of Liverpool. He saw great profit in joining Barnum in America and did so that same year. It was there that he was given the name Jo-Jo ‘The Dog-Faced Boy’. During his time with Barnum he was billed as ‘The most prodigious paragon of all prodigies secured by P. T. Barnum in over 50 years’. At his first public unveiling he was met with audible gasps from the assembled media. His animalistic looks contrasted the neatly pressed and ornate Russian cavalry uniform he wore. Barnum fielded questions and, after members of the press were affirmed that Jo-Jo did not bite, they lined up and took turns tugging on his facial hair.

At times Jo-Jo lived up to his namesake by growling and snapping and members of the audience. A bite from Jo-Jo would have been nothing serious as his form of hypertrichosis robbed him of all but two teeth. At other times he was quiet and dignified. He was known to be a gentle and generous man. He was described by the New York Herald as being as playful as a puppy with his audiences and ‘the most absorbingly interesting curiosity to ever reach these shores’. He was an avid reader and spoke as many as five languages. Following his stint with Barnum he continued to tour the world. He briefly returned to the United States to join up with the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus.

In 1904, during a tour of Greece, Jo-Jo contracted pneumonia. He died shortly thereafter at the age of 35 with no heirs or romances of note. However, when new of his passing reached the United States he was mourned by sideshow performers and enthusiast everywhere.

image: Jo-Jo during his time with Barnum and Bailey.

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