Tag Archives: 16th Century

Hirsutism: It is What It Sounds Like

21 Sep

If you’ve watched a History Channel special on bearded ladies or werewolves (it’s okay if you haven’t, not everyone watches as much TV as I do), you’ve probably heard of hirsutism. If you think that the word sounds suspiciously like “hair suit”, you’d be exactly right! Hirsutism is a genetic issue that affects a relatively tiny proportion of the population. It affects more women than men, but let’s face it- they’re hairy anyways, so we’re less likely to notice.

Aside form 19th century circus acts, people with hirsutism tend to keep their condition on the down low. Probably because being so covered in hair garners a lot of attention. There is, however, one family that got quite a lot of attention in 16th century Europe, Petrus and Tognina Gonzales. Petrus, who was born in the Canary Islands, was taken as a child and presented to the French King Henry II. The prevailing medical opinion of the time was that he was either a werewolf or part dog.

The king took Petrus in and had him educated (more to see if it was possible than anything else). By the time he was an adult, Petrus was very successful in court circles and quite the asset to Henry. He got married in 1573 to a Parisian woman and they ended up having four children (all of the kids got dad’s hirsutism). As a family, they traveled around Europe together, visiting different royal courts and important people. Around this time, a painting was done of Tognina, Petrus’ cute (but hairy) young daughter.

Unfortunately, not much more is known about the family, or what happened to them throughout history. Maybe if you meet a particularly hairy European person with the last name of Gonzales, you can ask if they have a great-great-grandfather named Petrus.