Over the last couple of years, we have seen that beards, mustaches, and stubble have become increasingly popular. Just take a walk and you’ll most certainly be confronted with various types of facial hair. However, there is very little chance that you will be able to see a man with a staggering 17 feet 6 inches long beard.
According to the Guinness World Records, the longest beard of a living male measures 8 feet 2.5 inches and belongs to Sarwan Singh from Canada. But the same source states that the beard of a man named Hans N. Langseth, who died in 1927, is the longest in recorded history, measuring an incredible 17 feet 6 inches at the time of his burial. Here is his fascinating story.
Born in 1846 in Norway, Langseth emigrated to the United States at a young age, settling in Kensett, Iowa, with his wife, Anna Benson.
When Langseth was 19, he began sporting a beard in order to compete in a local beard-growing contest.
We don’t know if he won the contest or not, but when it ended, Langseth just kept on growing his beard. As the beard hair can only grow about five feet before dying off, he tangled the dead hair together in a coil.
Dr. David Hunt, a physical and forensic anthropologist, told Smithsonian magazine that the beard itself acts as a kind of timeline for Langseth’s life—the brown parts represent his youth while the yellowed parts his older years.
“You have to be a little eccentric to do this,” Hunt told Smithsonian, describing how Langseth rolled his beard around a corncob and carried it in a pouch around his neck (which sounds very effective for a cold winter).
Langseth worked as a farmer for most of his life until his massive beard prompted him to join a circus, where, as part of a sideshow exhibition, he toured the country by the name “King of Whiskers.” He quit the circus after a while because he was tired of people pulling his beard, thinking it was fake.
Langseth’s beard was officially declared the longest in the country in 1922 at a celebration in Sacramento, California. He entered a nationwide search held by a group of beard growers known as “Whiskerinos,” who were dazzled when they saw the results of Langseth’s beard, which measured 17 feet in length.
The man who had the longest beard in recorded history died in 1927, at age 81, in Wyndmere, North Dakota.
While there is a claim that Langseth died by stepping on his beard and breaking his neck, this is not verified.
According to his children, his final wish was to have his beard cut off and stored for posterity. Before his casket was buried, his son cut off his father’s beard, with which Langseth had identified for most of his life.
After being tucked away in the attic for too long, Langseth’s son donated the beard to the Smithsonian Institute, where it was displayed as part of the museum’s physical anthropology exhibition from 1967 to 1991.
As reported by the Smithsonian magazine, today the beard is kept in storage and once or twice a year it’s brought out when some of Langseth’s descendants stop by to visit the famed lengthy whiskers of their ancestor.