5 Chimps Who Grew Up in Human Families


The Mess With Meshie

Baron, chimp, Detroy
Baron was one of three chimpanzees kept as pets by the Detroy circus family of Essex, England. Here he enjoys a ride with young Carl Detroy. Meshie performed similar antics with Harry Raven. Charles Hewitt/Picture Post/Getty Images

Chimps are evocative, emotional creatures, so it's not surprising that scientists get attached to their furry subjects. But in the case of Meshie, the results were, shall we say, very messy indeed.

In 1929, a mammologist named Henry Raven visited Africa and brought an orphaned chimp named Meshie back to his home on Long Island. This was possibly the first attempt to raise a chimp with a human family. The animal snuggled with the other children, held human babies and became the subject of many pictures and family videos [source: Rovzar].

Unlike some other chimp stories, Meshie wasn't really treated as a human. She slept in cage away from the human children, with whom she sometimes played. However, it seemed as if Raven was closer to Meshie than he was to his own children.

As Meshie grew older, she got smarter — and more aggressive. Occasionally, she would bite people when she didn't get her way. She required a lot of attention, so much so that when Raven announced he was leaving on another extended business trip, his wife demanded that the chimp leave, too [source: Edwards].

So, in 1934, Meshie ended up at a Chicago zoo. Three years later, she died, and her body was sent to a taxidermist. The results were placed on display at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, a life-size testament to a chimp/family scenario with a wistful end [source: Wadler].