Pages from History

A collection of historic Images - Giraffe Neck Women


To reach the homes of the  Padaungs, who are people of Mongolian extraction and not Burmese, the traveler must first proceed to Burma, which is bounded on the West by the Bay of Bengal  and Assam.  On the North by Tibet, Northeast by Chinese province of Yunnan and on the Southeast by Siam.  The extreme south extends as a narrow strip until it meets the Federated Malay States.  The length from North to South is approximately 1,200 miles, and the greatest width 500 miles.


Rangoon, the capital of Burma is located on the Irrawaddy River twenty one miles from the sea.  The silting of the fast river current has always caused shoals and difficulties in in navigation, acting as a barrier, preventing large steamers from calling at this interesting port, which therefore does not have many tourists, although the Strand Hotel in Rangoon is one of the finest in the Far East, with wonderful food and excellent service. 


A glance at the globe of the earth, will disclose the fact that it is not possible for anyone to dwell farther away than do the Padaung Giraffe-Neck Women;  who live exactly half way around the world from New York.  If a traveler did not proceed as far as Burma, the distance would be nearer to New York, while if the journey continued on around the world, the mileage becomes less.



The location of the native villages of the Padaungs is such that the members of the tribes who are now in this country, have the distinction of having traveled a greater distance, that my other visitors America has ever had in its entire history.


From Rangoon to the Padaung homes, the first part of the journey is thirty hours by rail, then by motor cars through dense jungles, over ancient cock strewn bullock roads, just barely wide enough for cars to pass through far beyond the Burmese frontier.  The progress is so slow, that it takes five days to travel three hundred miles from the end of the railroad, to the foothills of the spurs of the Eastern end of the Himalaya mountains, where the Padaung villages are located.  The inaccessibility of this territory is such, that after the motor cars can proceed no farther, baggage elephants require in parts, twelve hours to cover three miles.


A Padaung mother stretches her child's neck gradually to dangerous length stretching the vertebrae, like Chinese mothers, who until recently, tortured their daughters by squeezing their feet.


Small girls commence as soon as possible. The application is done in secret ritual.  The neck is continually stretched, with more coils added each year until the average length of sixteen inches is reached, although some greatly exceed that.  The solid brass on the necks and legs weighs between fifty and sixty pounds.  The desirability of the women for marriage is measured by the quantity of metal.  The more brass, the better bride she is supposed to be.


This custom does not in any way effect their health, not interfere with domestic duties.  The women do most of the work, cultivate the paddy fields, chop wood and carry water with these brass collars that can never be removed.



The men of the tribes wear no brass ornaments of any kind.  They do however have a great deal of tattooing all over their bodies.  This is done with a crude needle and native vegetable dyes.  The ordeal of having complicated dragons and other animal designs worked upon the arms, chest and legs is very painful.  Many have the setting sun in colors across the back at the shoulder blades.  All have various combinations of numbers tattooed in native symbols, in formation like checker boards, which are supposed to act as charms, ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.


Naturally a superstitious people, they actually read their destinies and plot their course of living by consulting chicken bones.. The thigh bones of a chicken are stripped of the flesh and both scraped with a knife until two small holes appear.  A splint of bamboo about six inches in length is inserted in the holes in each bone.  If the angles of the splint, after being probed into the holes, are alike in both bones that is a good sign.  If not alike a bad omen.


In addition, if while traveling, should a snake cross their path, all will turn back, and give up the object the trip was being started for.


This superstition and timidness has always defeated any previous attempts to bring the Padaung people from their native hills, so that they have after three expeditions into widely separated villages had failed, a small group in a fourth village, Maung suri, Maund Da, Mu Kaun, Mu Proa and Mu Ba, more courageous than the others, were persuaded to make the trip to America.  Their interest was aroused and consent gained by many gifts of axes, knives, tins or fish, bright cloth and Silver Rupees, which are acceptable in trade and axes, used by the women to make necklaces.  These people will not handle paper currency.  Numerous all-day explanations were made, through interpreters, of the wonders of the world beyond their own horizon.  After many days of consideration and much talk among themselves, expressing great doubt as to the truth of the variety of photographs of the outside world they had seen the journey finally started.


The first touch of civilization was at the end of the railroad, at a lunch room in the station.  The group was served and started eating, as is their custom, with their fingers.  The author, explained the use of knives, forks and spoons, which were thrown on the floor in disgust at this first civilized meal.


They were quick to learn, and now have excellent table manners.


In coming to New York, the fastest route was necessary, as the long trip is very tiresome for the most experienced traveler, and naturally world become tedious for these people who had never before seen a train or ship.


After reaching Rangoon the route was by small steamer to Calcutta, then across India to Bombay, by rail, using the fastest train in the East, The Imperial Indian Mail, direst to Ballard Pier in Bombay, to Venice, Italy in two days faster time than any other service from India to Europe.  From Venice the route was by rail through Switzerland and France to Paris and Cherbourg to board the S.S. Bremen for New York.  With these fast steamers and close connections the time to travel half was around the world from Rangoon to New York, was three weeks and six days.


Upon their arrival in America, the Padaungs evidenced interest in everything.  Fast elevators, motor cars, aeroplanes, jig-saw puzzles, telephones, moving pictures, bright silk and candy being among the objects of their special attention.  They are a temperate people whose appetite for liquor is satisfied with a single drink.  Their native brew is rice wine.  They do not like beer.


In Personal habits, the Padaungs, both men and women, are zealously clean.  They are modest also and consider the bare necks of the American women extremely indecent.  Due to the brass coils, they cannot wash their necks, but clean them with long straws, much as one would clean a pipe or a lamp chimney, using plain water as a polish, until it shines like a mirror.


Recently at two hospitals, the Philadelphia General and the Barnes in St. Louis, one of the women submitted to the ministrations of the white man's "witch doctors" and allowed the scientific eye of the X-ray to explore the Giraffe-neck.


The rays could not penetrate the solid brass, but certain interesting conclusions were reached as a result of what was reprocess of elongating the neck, the woman had added four of her back vertebrae to the neck, and the whole thorax had been pulled up, causing the upper part of the lungs to collapse and the lower part to flair.  The doctors stated that she had good lung power despite this, but that if the rings were removed she probably would not be able to support her head.  It would wobble about utterly out of control. Each eventful and interesting day in America does not present the Padaungs from counting on a native calendar how long it will be before they start on the journey back to their jungle village, thus demonstrating that the well known saying is true the world over, even among these: The Last of The Unknown People Of The Earth, that be it ever so humble, "There is no place like home."


Copyrighted 1933 by Howard Y. Bary





Above image is the cover of the booklet by Howard Y Bary the Ringling - Barnum organization gave him the responsibility to bring to

and manage the group while in the United Stated, Click on cover for more information.




Articles - Links - Mis

Burmese Princess Has 'Giraffe Neck'





Click On The Photos Below To View Full Size.




Padaung Women Allow the Scientific Eye of the X-Ray to Explore the Mysterious Neck Conformation Beneath the Heavy Brass Rings.


Image made at the Barnes Hospital, St. Louis Mo. and at the Philadelphia, PA, General Hospital

Posing for shipnews cameramen upon the arrival of the SS Bremen in New York

They appear to be comfortable when they recline for rest or sleep, despite the cumbersome brass rings around their incredible necks

Domestic duties are in no way restricted by the solid brass decorations worn by the Padaung Women





Learning to enjoy card games on their long journey from the Eastern to the Western World

Afternoon Tea

Daily singing, a part of the Padaung home life, is not forgotten in AMERICA

Note expressions on faces of the four girls seated from left to right.  All were reluctant to pose.  Giraffe Neck Woman


Giraffe Neck Women

Padaung Women

Giraffe Neck Women

& Children

Giraffe Neck Women

Padaung Women

Padaung People

Giraffe Neck Women



















The Giraffe-Neck Women


Two years ago they were living in primitive jungle villages in Upper Burmah and had never seen cars, radio, aeroplanes or electric light.

The average weight of the brass worn is 50lbs., but the more worn the greater the marriage prospects.  The rings are never taken off-night or day-and they wash their necks with long straw-like spills.

The baby, whom they named PETER OLYMPIA, was born in London last January.

The first of their race ever to be seen in the civilized West, they return home in November, and their likeness may never be seen again in Europe.









Royal Padaung




who is presented with a multitude of new and amazing features this year by

the Hagenbeck - Wallace Circus







Glasgow, Scotland Giraffe Necked Woman a Mother again.  22 year old giraffe-necked woman appears in a sideshow here, has become a mother for the second time.  It's a girl as yet.  Proud mother Suri and father Olympia, age 2, the couple's first born child, look as admiringly here while Ms Suri holds the new baby in her lap.




























These three women, who appeared in the Olympia Christmas circus, London, made their first aeroplane flight from Romford.  They are Padaungs, and their necks, about 16in. long, are encircled by heavy brass rings which they have worn since childhood.  It is the usual custom with these people to elongate the necks of female children.



1934 Giraffe-Neck Woman, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus "Princess Mu Kaun of Burma with Neck Rings"








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