How the Russian “dog boy” Fedya Evtikhiev became a circus star in the USA

How the Russian “dog boy” Fedya Evtikhiev became a circus star in the USA

Categories: Children | History | Society

Just 100 years ago, “freak circuses” and “human zoos” were very popular in the United States. They looked for people with physical abnormalities to show them for money. One of the most famous performers of such a circus at the end of the 19th century was the Russian boy Fyodor Evtikhiev. He performed as a “dog boy” and was a huge success with the public.

How the Russian “dog boy” Fedya Evtikhiev became a circus star in the USA

In the 1880s, spectators of Barnum's popular show flocked to performances to see an outlandish performer from distant Russia. It was a teenager whose face was completely covered with thick, long hair. The entertainer announced him as Yo-Yo, the dog boy from Kostroma.

How the Russian “dog boy” Fedya Evtikhiev became a circus star in the USA

Guests of the performance were told that the child was born into a wild family that lived in a forest hole. Allegedly, the dog boy and his father were discovered by hunters. They shot the man by mistake, mistaking him for an animal, and were able to tame the child. At this time, the young artist did his best to feign aggression, running around the stage and growling at people in the audience. The audience screamed with delight, and many willingly came to the show several times.

In fact, the boy-dog's name was Fyodor Evtikhiev. He was born not in the forest, but in St. Petersburg. He and his father suffered from a rare genetic disease called hypertrichosis. With it, the face, and sometimes the body, is covered with thick hair, similar to animal fur. Fyodor and his father were forced to go to fairs and earn a living, demonstrating themselves for the amusement of onlookers.

How the Russian “dog boy” Fedya Evtikhiev became a circus star in the USA

These tours continued for several years until Phineas Taylor Barnum learned about the amazing family duo. The owner of the world famous freak show found Fedor at a time when he was orphaned and in great need. His father, Andrian Evtikhiev, had recently been abusing alcohol and died during one of his binges. Therefore, the 16-year-old teenager willingly agreed to go to work in distant America. In 1884, Fyodor Evtikhiev signed a contract with Barnum and went overseas.

Phineas Barnum was a true professional. Although viewers willingly came to watch the outlandish people of his show, he did not hesitate to lie, inflating interest in his artists through unusual stories. An example is the “biography” of one of the first performers of his circus, a black woman, Joyce Hett. Barnum shamelessly lied that the elderly woman was 160 years old and that she nursed the first US President George Washington as a child.

How the Russian “dog boy” Fedya Evtikhiev became a circus star in the USA

We must give Barnum his due - he did not offend his charges and paid them very well. For many of them, working in the circus has become the only way to lead a normal life and even make some money. Fedor Evtikhiev became one of the entrepreneur’s favorites. He came up with a story for him about a hole in the Kostroma forest to stir up the interest of the public.

Fyodor Evtikhiev was a wild man from the forest only for spectators. Those who knew him closely said that the young man was well brought up and knew Russian, English and German. The artist appeared on stage in a soldier’s uniform of the army of the Russian Empire, specially tailored for him. He growled menacingly and rolled his eyes, and the entertainer invited the brave to go out and get to know the “dog boy” better.

How the Russian “dog boy” Fedya Evtikhiev became a circus star in the USA

His short stature, caused by genetic abnormalities, allowed Evtikhiev to perform in the role of “boy” Yo-Yo for two decades. He traveled with Barnum's circus to the USA, Canada and Mexico. He also visited Europe. Unfortunately, these tours turned out to be Fedor’s last. In 1904, in Thessaloniki, Greece, the artist caught a cold and contracted pneumonia. Despite all the efforts of the doctors, Evtikhiev died.

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