In this article:
- Often, people say that someone was “raised by wolves” as an expression meaning that they had a hard childhood or they have little manners.
- In the case of Dina Sanichar, this statement would be unironically true.
- Sanichar was discovered by a group of hunters in a cave in Uttar Pradesh, India, and returned to an orphanage in a nearby city.
- While at the orhpanage, Sanichar struggled to adjust to human society. He never learned to speak, he ate only raw meat, and he walked on all fours for most of his life.
- While Sanichar did begin to act more like a human later in his life, he died at the young age of 35 without ever being fully acclimated to human life.
When people have a difficult upbringing, it’s not uncommon for them to say that they were “raised by wolves.” The same term is also applied to people who are lacking certain manners. For instance, someone might say that you were “raised by wolves” if you forget to put your napkin on your lap at a fancy dinner. However, when people in modern society use this phrase, it is almost never used literally.
However, in the case of a 19th-century man from India named Dina Sanichar, saying that he was raised by wolves would be a completely accurate and unironic representation of his childhood.
Discovered in a cave by hunters, the boy was rescued and later introduced to human society; however, he learned to behave as other humans behaved. The story of Dina Sanichar is one of the most bizarre and unfathomable tales in human history.
In fact, if you’ve ever read The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling or seen one of the film adaptions (I would highly recommend the 1967 animated version over the 2016 live-action version), then you’re already a bit familiar with the story of Dina Sanichar.
Many believe that Sanichar was the inspiration for the main character of Mowgli. And, while that fact is definitely disputed, the two definitely have one major characteristic in common: they were both raised by wolves.
Let’s take a look at the incredible life of Dina Sanichar and some other children who were raised by wild animals.
In February of 1867, a group of hunters were making their way through the jungles outside of Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, India, when they came to a clearing. At the end of a clearing lay a cave and, at the mouth of the cave, the hunters saw a lone animal which they believed to be a wolf. However, as they drew closer and closer to the cave, they came to realize that this animal was, in fact, a human boy.
The boy was crouched on all fours, growling at the men. He looked to be no older than the age of 6. When the hunters began asking him questions, he did not respond in any human language, but continued to growl at them as a wolf would.
Not wanting to leave the boy behind in the wilderness, the hunters brought him back to the city and gave him over to the Sikandra Mission Orphanage. Of course, when he arrived at the orphanage, he did not have a name. The employees at the orphanage began to call him “Sanichar” because he arrived on a Saturday.
Struggling to Adjust
Once in the orphanage, Sanichar never fully adjusted to life in human society. He behaved far more like an animal than he would a human. He walked around on all fours, ate only raw meat, and chewed on animal bones. It was recorded that he would always sniff his food before he ate it and, if he didn’t like it, he would throw it away.
Communicating with Sanichar was nearly impossible. First of all, he never learned to speak any sort of human language, but rather continued to growl like a wolf for his entire life. Secondly, he couldn’t understand people’s hand gestures or body language.
For people raised in human society, we innately understand certain gestures and body movements; however, being raised by wolves, Sanichar had no context for such visual language.
While Sanichar never learned to speak the language of his missionaries, he eventually began to understand them somewhat. Perhaps, because he never learned to speak human language during the developmental stages of his childhood, his vocal system never formed the necessary mechanisms. Or, perhaps, the sounds of human language were simply too different for him to form on his own.
As time went on, though, Sanichar did start to behave more like a human. According to the missionaries, he began to stand upright, he would dress himself, and he eventually became a heavy cigarette smoker.
An Unfortunate Ending
At the age of 35, in the year 1895, Dina Sanichar died of tuberculosis. It’s quite possible that his heavy smoking habit contributed to the development of this illness as smoking is known to greatly increase the risk of tuberculosis. So, it’s very possible that Sanichar’s introduction to the world of human vices may have been his very downfall.
While Sanichar ended up spending the majority of his life in the company of human beings rather than wolves, he never fully adjusted to human society and continued to act somewhat like an animal until the day he died.
Although he is probably the most famous “feral child” in history, he was not the only child known to have been raised by animals. In fact, there were said to be other feral children at the Sikandra Mission Orphanage at the same time as Saninchar.
Other Feral Children
While the story of Dina Sanichar may be hard to believe, according to the missionaries at Sikandra Mission Orphanage, finding feral children was not all that uncommon at that time in India.
In fact, according to the superintendent of the orphanage, Sanichar was placed among two other boys and one girl who had also been found in the wild.
One geographer who was asked about the case of Sanichar said that a new feral child arriving at an orphanage would have “created no more surprise than the delivery of the daily supply of butcher’s meat.” In fact, an article from 2014 in India Today, claimed that there had been nearly 50 cases of “wolf children” in India over the previous century.
While the validity of these stories has been questioned (many believe that these orphanages may have made up such stories for publicity), there are many out there that believe that cases of feral children are entirely possible.
For one, it’s conceivable that a child’s parents may have abandoned it in the wilderness as a baby, particularly if that child was conceived extramaritally. On the other hand, many believe that a she-wolf might kidnap a baby from its home and then raise the baby as if it were her own.
In the case of Dina Sanichar, no one is entirely sure how he ended up living in a cave with a pack of wolves.
Regardless, he has become the poster child for “feral children” throughout history and very well may have served as the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, especially considering the fact that Kipling would have been working for local newspapers in British India at the time while Sanichar was alive in the orphanage.