Padaung tribe in northern Thailand hold the record for the longest necks in the world

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According to tribal custom, even before they reach puberty, girls must start wearing iron coils around their necks and more and more are added through the years. View more at #FactsPediaIn.

The Padaung women say they only feel initial discomfort, as the distance between the ear lobe and the collar bone is stretched to 10 inches, double the average. Although only girls born on a Wednesday of a full moon, were meant to wear the coils, to please the ever-growing tourist masses, other young girls are used as well.

The longest recorded neck reached 40 cm in length

Padaung Long Neck Women

The Padaung’s famous long-necked women wear brass coils not rings around their necks. A symbol of wealth, position and beauty, the coils can stretch their necks over a foot and weigh over 20 pounds According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world record for longest neck 15¾ inches belonged to a Padaung woman. The Ndebele in South Africa wear rings around their necks. Padaung means long neck.

The coils are made from brass and gold alloy. Because long necked women can’t lean their head’s back, they drink from straws. According to the British journalist J.G. Scott there voices sound “as if they were speaking from the bottom of a well.”

Padaung women might appear to have long necks but this is an optical illusion. As the coils are added they push the collar bone and ribs down, creating the appearance of a longer neck. Actually stretching the neck would result in paralysis and death. Removing the coils does not cause a woman’s neck to collapse, although the muscles weaken.

Dr. John Keshishian, an American doctor, wondered what was happening anatomically to elongate the women’s neck. Did the wearing of the rings create gaps between women’s vertebrae? And if this was the case was it dangerous? After X-raying several long-necked women in Rangoon he discovered that the neck was not expanding. Rather the chins of the women are pushed up and their collarbones are pushed downwards by the weight of the coils, causing the shoulders to slope.

Life of Padaung Long Neck Women

One woman told the New York Times, “It can be a bit boring and hot and it hurts when you first put it on…When you take off the brass you’re a little dizzy, and for one or two minutes you shouldn’t walk. You feel very light and you have a little headache, like you’ve been wearing a heavy backpack and you suddenly take it off.” The women also wear more brass loops around their legs which weigh up to 30 pounds. These loops force the women to waddle when they walk and sit straight-legged.

Amit R. Paley wrote in the Washington Post, “Nae Naheng, 52, the matriarch of the family said the Padaung believe that women used to be angels in the past world, and that male hunters used rattan rings to catch them and bring them to Earth. Women are never supposed to remove the rings. Naheng said she even sleeps in them and only briefly takes off the rings in the shower. “Once I took them off when I was young, and I felt sick and very sad,” she said. “If you do not wear the rings, your soul will get ill and you can die.” [Source: Amit R. Paley, Washington Post, August 23, 2009]

At about the age of 6, girls are allowed to choose whether or not to put on the rings. Wearers say that they are not uncomfortable, although their weight forces the shoulders down, making the neck look longer. According to the Sydney Morning Herald: “Young girls typically start wearing about 3 1/2 pounds of brass coil around their necks and keep adding weight until they have more than 11 pounds. They also wear coils on their legs. The women said the rings were painful when they were young but don’t hurt now at all, and they said there are no health problems associated with wearing them. None of the Padaung I spoke to knew of any story or reason for wearing the rings. It was just a tradition, they said.

Why do we wear the rings? Mamombee said, whose neck seemed particularly elongated. “We do it to put on a show for the foreigners and tourists!” I couldn’t tell if she was joking. But Mamombee said she doesn’t like to remove them except once every three years to clean herself. “I feel bad when I take out the rings,” she said. “I look and feel ugly.” [Sources: peoplesoftheworld.org; Sydney Morning Herald]

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