Wild Men of Borneo

Waino and Plutanor, the "Wild Men of Borneo" (late 1870s).jpg
Waino and Plutanor circa 1870s

The Wild Men of Borneo, Waino and Plutanor, were a pair of exceptionally strong dwarf brothers who were most famously associated with P. T. Barnum and his freak show exhibitions.


Waino and Plutanor were actually Hiram W. and Barney Davis, two mentally disabled brothers from Pleasant Township, Knox County, Ohio farm, born in 1825 in England[1] and 1827 in Ohio respectively. The 1850 census for them suggests they were born slightly later in 1829 and 1831. Their parents were David Harrison Davis and Catherine Blydenburgh. After their father's death in 1842, their mother remarried to William Porter. They were each 40 inches tall (100cm) and weighed about 45 pounds (20kg), yet could perform feats of great strength such as lifting heavy weights and wrestling with audience members on stage. Discovered and subsequently promoted by a traveling showman known as Doctor Warner in 1852, Hiram and Barney were given new names, Waino and Plutanor, and a sensational back story – they were said to be from the island of Borneo, where they had been captured after a great struggle with armed sailors. They initially had modest success, and at least one newspaper believed them to be dwarves from America.[2] The two soon went on to be exhibited at state fairs across the United States. At the time of the 1860 census they were living in Somerville, Massachusetts in the household of Henry Harvey, a showman.[3] At some point in the next few years management of the pair was transferred to a relative of Doctor Warner, Hanford A. Warner.

In 1874 they were valued at $50,000.[4] In January 1877 they were performing at the New American Museum located in Manhattan.[5] In June 1880 at the time of the federal census, they were touring with William C. Coup's circus and were enumerated under their assumed identities. By 1882 Waino and Plutanor became involved with P. T. Barnum and his traveling exhibitions. With Barnum's fabled promotional skill, the careers of the Wild Men of Borneo took off and over the course of the next 25 years, the pair earned approximately $200,000, which was an enormous sum in that era. Their exhibitions primarily consisted of performing acts of great strength, such as lifting adult audience members and wrestling with both audience members and each other. They were said to be able to lift up to 300 pounds (140 kg) each. In November 1887 they were performing at Eugene Robinson's Dime Museum and Theatre.[6] In the 1890s Hanford's son Ernest took over the management duties of the Davis brothers due to the elder Hanford becoming blind.

In 1903 the brothers were withdrawn from exhibitions by the Warner family. Hiram died in Waltham, Massachusetts on March 16, 1905.[7] Barney stopped working after his brother's death. Their former manager Hanford Warner died in 1910. Barney died on May 31, 1912 at Waltham, Massachusetts at the Warner family home.[8] The two are buried together in Mount Vernon, Ohio, under a gravestone marked "Little Men." Newspapers from the time report them being buried in Waltham, Massachusetts. It is unknown when their bodies were moved to Ohio.


  1. ^ Bogdan, Robert (1988). Freak Show : Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit., p. 121
  2. ^ "The Latest Humbug Out". The Planters' Banner. Franklin, Louisiana. April 7, 1853.
  3. ^ Eighth Census of the United States, United States Census, 1860; Somerville, Middlesex, Massachusetts; page 18, line 13-14. Retrieved on 11 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Current News". The Andrew County Republican. Savannah, Missouri. December 26, 1873.
  5. ^ "The New American Museum". The Sun. New York. January 17, 1877.
  6. ^ "Eugene Robinson's Dime Museum". The Memphis Appeal. Memphis, Tennessee. November 20, 1887.
  7. ^ "Death of the Original "Wild Man of Borneo"". The San Francisco Call. San Francisco, California. March 17, 1905.
  8. ^ "'Wild Man Of Borneo' Dead". The Evening World. New York, New York. May 31, 1912.

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