Stefan Bibrowski was born in 1890 in Warsaw. He was discovered by a unknown German showman at the age of four and, with the permission of his parents, he began his exhibition career in 1895. He was given the name Lionel The Lion-Faced Boy and a back story involving his mother witnessing his father being eaten by a lion was added to his biography. This was cited as the cause of his four inch long fur and the concept – know as imprinting – was a commonly held belief in the 1800’s.
He did indeed have hypertrichosis and by all accounts was a very intelligent man who spoke at least five languages and had aspirations of being a dentist. Physically he was not an imposing figure as his official height was only five feet, three inches. Also, as is common with many forms of hypertrichosis, Lionel only had a couple of teeth in his mouth.
Lionel toured mostly in Europe but he did do several American tours – almost always with Barnum & Bailey Shows and once with Coney Island Dreamland Circus in New Jersey. He actually truly enjoyed the opportunities provided by his unusual hairiness. In fact, in 1904 in New York, the hotel he was staying at caught fire and Lionel was the very first man out. He was terrified of having his furry faced singed. He was quoted as stating if that happened he ‘would just be an ordinary man’.
Shortly after becoming a German citizen in 1932, Lionel passed away. He had no wife and or children on record. According to some reports he died in Italy and according to others, he died in a Nazi concentration camp – despite being a Catholic.
Images of Lionel are often confused with those of Jo-Jo and for decades images of the two were interchangable and few realized the men where two individuals.