Detail of the two heads of Kap Dwa.

Tales of a Two-headed Giant: Are the Legends of Kap Dwa Real?

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Countless people have claimed to encounter giants throughout history. Greek titans, various Norse giants, the Chinese giant Pangu, and the Biblical giants Goliath and Anak are all examples of stories of extremely large beings in different cultures. This has led many to wonder if real giants ever existed. One example which has been suggested as a possibility is the giant Kap Dwa. Kap Dwa is alleged to be a Patagonian giant discovered off the coast of South America. The body is unusual not just in its gigantic stature, but also in the fact that it has two heads. Could this giant be real? It is scientifically plausible, but its association with P. T. Barnum and the fact that it has not been examined by experts call this giant’s authenticity into question.

Giant Bones in Baltimore

Kap Dwa is said to be a 12-foot (3.66 meter) tall giant, the body of which is in a museum in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It is said to be a Patagonian giant. Patagonia was considered a land inhabited by giants for a long time. The legend of Patagonian giants goes back to a story told by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

English sailor offering bread to a Patagonian woman giant. Frontispiece to ‘Viaggio intorno al mondo fatto dalla nave Inglese il Delfino comandata dal caposqadra Byron’ (Florence, 1768), the first Italian edition of John Byron’s ‘A Voyage Round the World in His Majesty’s Ship the Dolphin . . .’  (London, 1767) [Rare Books Division].

English sailor offering bread to a Patagonian woman giant. Frontispiece to ‘Viaggio intorno al mondo fatto dalla nave Inglese il Delfino comandata dal caposqadra Byron’ (Florence, 1768), the first Italian edition of John Byron’s ‘A Voyage Round the World in His Majesty’s Ship the Dolphin . . .’  (London, 1767) [Rare Books Division]. ( Princeton)

Magellan and his men stopped on the beaches of South America and went inland to explore. As they explored, it is said they encountered natives that were twice the size of a normal man. This is probably because a few of the indigenous peoples of the region, namely the Tehuelche, do happen to be taller than the average European was at the time. This height difference may have been exaggerated, leading to the long-standing European myth that Patagonia was a land of giants.

Is it possible though that there may have been a few real giants in Patagonia and that Kap Dwa is an example of them?

Drawing representing the giant Kap Dwa.

Drawing representing the giant Kap Dwa. ( CC BY SA )

The Histories (or Legends)

There are two conflicting stories of the origin of Kap Dwa. According to the first, Kap Dwa was encountered by Spanish sailors in around 1673 on the beaches of Patagonia. He was captured and taken onto their ship where they strapped him to the mast. When he got free of the mast, he skirmished with them and was killed by a pike piercing his chest. After this his body was mummified and stuffed and eventually made its way first to Britain and later the United States in the 19th century; where it became the subject of many sideshows and freak shows as a spectacle of the unexplored world.

Publicity to see Kap Dwa 

Publicity to see Kap Dwa. ( CC BY SA )

The second story is that the giant was found already dead on a beach with a spear through his chest. In this version, his body was found by Paraguay natives who mummified the body and worshiped it in a sort of religious ceremony. At some point after this, the British schooner captain George Bickle heard about it. He infiltrated Paraguay and stole the body. After having taken the body, he brought it with him to Britain.

Full length image of the body of Kap Dwa.

Full length image of the body of Kap Dwa. ( CC BY SA )

Both stories end the same way: The body ends up in the hands of showmen who add it to their collection of curiosities.

There is some disagreement over its authenticity. Some believe it to be genuine and others are convinced it is a hoax. Let us examine the evidence and see which one sounds more likely.

Is a Two-Headed 12 Foot Man Even Possible?

Although a real two-headed giant seems pretty far-fetched, on par with discovering a real dragon or a real troll, it is not actually as unlikely as it sounds. Let us first examine the creature’s unusual height. There have been people of unusual stature due to the condition known as gigantism. The tallest person in recorded history for which there is indisputable evidence is Robert Wadlow (1918-1940) who was 8 feet 11 inches (2.47 meters) tall and still growing when he suddenly died at the age of 22.


Tsurugi's picture

Another possibility is that Kap Dwa was a pair of dicephalic parapagus twins that did not suffer from gigantism, but was instead a kind of genetic relict, a rare re-emergence of the genetic makeup of a true ancient hominid race of very tall people who had mated with ancestors of local tribes long ago.

I point this out to illustrate that the assumption any "giant" hominid must be a Homo Sap Sap that "suffers from gigantism" is incorrect. It is an assumption that sharply limits the scope of possibilities; a limit that is unwarranted imo.

The old black and white photo is disproportional to a human of that height, if you understand physiology and what is needed to support a tall frame and at what height bone structure changes. You'd have to see one of our old posts at tangatawhenua16 for that explanation keeping in mind out search for real tall skeletons in NZ which should be complete in 2018. The obvious point to most should be the items carefully placed over the centre of the body which if exposed would have revealed it was not one body.

While I agree such a creature defies plausibility, one factor should be considered. Two heads with two pituitary glands could produce enough human growth hormone to produce gigantism. With all other bizarre abnormalities that could take place in such a man, it remains possible this seemingly fabled man could have existed.

Currently, there are a set of conjoined twins in the UK who could well be mistaken for a two headed woman. Add either a double load of pituitary hormones (which these young women don't seem to suffer from) or another form of giantism and you have this man. But the skeleton really needs a proper examination.

If other such malformed giants existed in antiquity - and there was comparative evidence - then OK maybe this giant would have merit. We know that real Giants existed - so that's not the issue - but a fully functioning naval combat warrior with two heads and also a giant to boot - Ah, NO! P. T. Barnum stikes again! LOL!

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