As a species, we tend to have a fascination with records. We enjoy seeing the best, the brightest, the biggest, and the most. That’s why it’s no surprise that we have been keeping records about height for many generations, passing down stories of giant people and their tiny counterparts.
In the past, people with extreme dwarfism or gigantism would have been looked on as exhibits for a circus or freak show. These days we are a little more understanding, and we know that their height is caused by medical conditions. While some work is being done to correct these conditions, it isn’t always possible to make a difference. For example, in some cases, people grow taller and taller because of tumours which affect their growth hormone. It may be possible to remove the tumour and stop their growth. For many unfortunates in the past, this has resulted in a death on the operating table, or simply hasn’t been possible. As medicine moves on, it’s more and more likely that we can help those suffering from conditions which affect their height.
After all, being a different size than “normal” is no laughing matter. Aside from facing prejudice, these extremely short and extremely tall individuals can suffer from bone conditions, chronic pain, and struggles with everyday life. Much respect must be given to those who come through it with a smile and see their condition as a blessing! While there may have been taller and shorter people in the past, the 15 people that you are about to see are the tallest and shortest alive today.
15 Sultan Kosen – 8ft 3in
Sultan has been recognized as the tallest living person in the world since the 17th of September 2009. He was measured by the Guinness World Records team on that day and received the honour. Born in 1982, he grew up in a family of normal height, but soon outstripped them all. His pituitary gland was affected by a tumour which made him grow so fast, he could no longer attend school. He has to walk with crutches in order to support himself. His feet are the second largest of any living person, at 1ft 2in long. His hands are the longest on a living person at 10.83in long. In 2010 he underwent gamma knife treatment at the University of Virginia Medical School, and by 2012 it was confirmed that his growth had finally stopped. He will never be the tallest person in history, but he got pretty close! He currently works in the Magic Circus of Samoa and travels around the world to perform.
14 Junrey Balawing – 23.6in
This Filipino man currently holds the title of the world’s shortest living person, as of June 12, 2011. He was born in 1993 on the same date, so the title was in effect a birthday present as he turned 18! He managed to beat the former shortest living man by almost 3 inches, and officials were obviously very keen to document his height as soon as he came of age. He actually stopped growing when he was just 1 year old, but he is 1.6in taller than the shortest man of all time. Interestingly, he has lost the title and gained it back within his lifetime. A man named Chandra Bahadur Dangi beat him in 2012, but then died in 2015, meaning that Balawing is once again the shortest man to still be alive today. As he is still very young, it seems likely that he will be able to hold the record – or at least stay in the very top percentile – for a long time to come.
13 Brahim Takioullah – 8ft 1in
Based in Morocco, Brahim Takioullah was born in 1987. He continued to grow as he aged, and soon reached a lofty height of 246cm. He has the largest feet in the world, at 1ft 3in long each. His large size is a result of a condition called acromegaly. This is when the growth plates close but there is still excess growth hormone in the body, usually caused by a benign tumour. The symptoms include enlarged hands and feet, a larger forehead, jaw, and nose, and a deepening of the voice. He had a metre high growth spurt in just one year, after he was 18. He gained a university degree but then came to Paris in 2006 for treatment. The tumour causing his growth was removed and his growth hormone levels were brought back to level, which allows him to stay the same height. He has immense difficulty finding shoes, but has settled in Paris to live and work. He is employed by an attraction and theme park called Saint-Paul, where he poses for pictures with visitors to the park.
12 Jyoti Amge – 24.7in
The world’s smallest living woman may be recognizable to many readers, as she was the star of American Horror Story: Freak Show. She played Ma Petite in the show, using her real-life status as a tiny person to create the role. She has also been on documentaries and reality television shows in her native India as well as around the world. She was born in December 1993 and thus may well hold the title for a long time to come. Her height is caused by a growth abnormality known as achondroplasia. It can be inherited or can be a sporadic mutation of the genes, which has a prevalence of around 1 in 25,000. Some of the symptoms include dwarfism, shortening of the limbs and digits, a large head and prominent forehead, a flattened nasal bridge, spinal curvature, bowlegs or knock knees, and frequent ear infections. Famous people with achondroplasia include Jason “Wee Man” Acuna and Peter Dinklage (who you will know as Tyrion from Game of Thrones).
11 Morteza Mehrzad – 8ft 1in
Many people on this list use their height as a way to make money, but Morteza Mehrzad Selakjani takes it a little further by using it to help him compete in sports. He was born in Iran in September 1987, and now plays for his country in the Paralympics. He is a sitting volleyball player, and takes the position of outside hitter. He’s the tallest man in Iran, which makes him well suited to the game, and he is actually the tallest Paralympian in history. He competed in the Paralympics in Summer 2016, and was the top match scorer with 28 points. As a result of his efforts, he is now a gold medal holder. At club level, he also played for a team called Samen Al Hojjaj Sabzebar in 2015. He must surely be the highest-achieving man in sport above 8ft of all time. He actually holds this height jointly with two other living men, and is only 2 inches smaller than our current tallest living man.
10 Madge Bester – 26in
At one time, Madge Bester was the world’s shortest living woman. Though the South African no longer holds this title, she is still very small indeed, at just 26 inches or 65 cm tall. Her height was caused by a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta. Other than a smaller height, this condition is also characterized by brittle bones. As a result, Madge has to use a wheelchair to get around. Since her birth in April 1963 and subsequent lack of growth, she has lent her voice to campaign for disability rights. In 1998 she held a news conference to discuss the issue alongside Lin Yü-chih, who was then the world’s smallest man. She now lives in a retirement village in Bloemfontein. Her condition was passed down genetically from her mother, Winnie Bester. Winnie was just a little taller than her daughter at 70 cm, and sadly passed away in 2001.
9 Dharmendra Pratap Singh – 8ft 1in
Dharmendra Pratap Singh is another tall man who suffers from acromegaly. The tumour he has also puts pressure on his optic nerve, causing him to have poor eyesight as well as frequent headaches. Other difficulties caused by his condition include diabetes, joint laxity, and of course his height. He lives in Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh, and unfortunately was raised in poverty. As a result, he could not afford to get treatment on his tumour, and is also severely malnourished. Despite his great height, he has been recorded as weighing just 70kg. Even though he has suffered through hardships, Dharmendra has an MA in Hindi Literature. He is currently the tallest living Indian. He was born in 1983, but the conditions of his poverty and the toll this has already taken on his body may mean that he does not live as long as other tall men. He has been forced to take work as a freak show performer, allowing people to take photographs with him, which he does not enjoy.
8 Khagendra Thapa Magar – 26in
A former shortest teenager and shortest man in the world, Khagendra was born in Nepal in October 1992. The village in the Baglung District where he was born refer to him as “little Buddha”. He weighed just 600g or 21oz at birth, but as an adult weighs in at 5.5kg or 12lb. His profession is listed as actor, and he has already appeared in one documentary for Channel 4 called The World’s Shortest Man and Me. He is no stranger to publicity and has taken part in a large number of public appearances. His size is caused by primordial dwarfism, which is special because it means all stages of life, even before birth, see a smaller body size. Very low birth weights are a tell-tale sign of the condition, and there are only about 100 people in the world who have it. In cases that have been seen so far, it has been considered rare for the sufferers to live past the age of 30 due to the complications that the condition can bring.
7 Zhang Juncai – 7ft 11 1/4in
We don’t know as much about Zhang Juncai as we do other tall men, as he keeps mostly to himself. At 7ft 11in, he has never held the title of tallest living man, which may explain why there is less interest in his case. He is from the Shanxi Province in China and is the tallest man in his country, which was verified in November 2010. He was born in 1966. One interesting fact about him is that he was actually friends with Yao Defen, who was the tallest living woman until she died in 2012. She came in at 7ft 8in, so even with her title, she was fairly short compared to her friend! Strangely enough, Zhang could actually have been the tallest man on earth until 2009, because he was taller than Bao Xi Shun – who at that time held the title. He refused to be officially measured by the Guinness World Records team and so his height is only known from a time when he was measured on a Japanese TV show.
6 Lin Yü-chih – 26.6in
This former shortest man in the world was born in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1972, and has surrendered his title even though he is still alive. He also appeared in The World’s Smallest Man and Me documentary, in 2008. You might sometimes see his name misspelled as Lin Yih-Chih, though the spelling that we have used above is the correct one for English speakers. The reason for his height is osteogenesis imperfecta, and he has decided to tackle this condition head-on. He founded a group called the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Association. He now spends his days as an author and a social activist, trying to ensure care and research for those who suffer from the same condition. He only learned that he had the condition in his twenties, so he wants to help others find their diagnosis sooner. He is confined to a wheelchair as a result of his brittle bones.
5 Asadulla Khan – 7ft 11in
Born in 1988, Asadulla Khan once claimed to be the tallest man in India. Though we now know of Dharmendra Pratap Singh who measures 8ft 1in, there is still some debate about Asadulla. He claims that his height is 7ft 11in, but some have disputed this claim and suggested that he may actually be taller. Other than this, not a lot is known about him. You may be wondering how it can be possible that we know these tall men exist without them having proper medical treatment, recognition, and more information known. The fact of the matter is that in poor areas like the part of India Asadulla resides in, medical treatment is not possible for all due to the cost. This means that their conditions often go undiagnosed for a long time. When they are diagnosed, treatment may be prohibitively expensive. Some formerly undiscovered tall and short people also lived in remote regions where it is rare for them to come to light as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
4 Bridgette Jordan – 27in
The smallest woman in the USA is Bridgette Jordan. Born in 1989, she is also one half of one of the shortest pairs of siblings alive today. Her brother, Brad Jordan, is just 38 inches tall, according to measurements taken in 2011 when he was 20 years old. Both Bridgette and Brad suffer from Microcephalic osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II – a subtype of the rare primordial dwarfism. Their access to better healthcare may help them to live a little longer, or so we can hope, as Bridgette is starting to approach the 30-year average lifespan for primordial dwarfism sufferers. She enjoys dancing and cheerleading in Sandoval, and was on the cheer squad for Kaskaskia College where she studied. Even if you were to put her and her brother on top of one another, they would still only clock in at 5ft 5in. She weighed just 1lb 1oz when she was born.
3 Naseer Soomro – 7ft 10in
Naseer Somro is one of the tallest men in Pakistan. He has also reportedly held the title of the world’s tallest unmarried person in the past, although there are now single men who are taller than him. Like many of our tallest men from Asian countries, not a lot is known about Somro. His height was also once reported as 7ft 9in, though it seems that he has grown a little extra since that time. Other than that, all we know is that he has at times taken on manual labour to help earn his keep. He is able to reach things that others can’t, and his larger feet and hands also make it possible to take wider or larger loads. This is one of the advantages of being a very tall person, though there are often disadvantages such as weaker bones and joint paints to go along with it.
2 Edward Niño Hernández – 70.21in
From the time that He Pingping – former world’s shortest man – died, the search was on for a successor. That man was to be Edward Hernandez, who was measured and named the shortest man in the world in September 2010. This was when he was 24 years old, having been born in 1986. Interestingly enough, it was discovered that Hernandez was actually 1.5 inches shorter than Pingping, meaning that he would have taken the title earlier if he had been measured when he was 18. He only held the title for just over a month, as it was in October 2014 that Khagendra Thapa Magar turned 18 and took the title from him. Hernandez lives in Bogota, Colombia, and makes a living as a dancer and actor. He has appeared on television programmes, such as Argentina’s Susana Gimenez. When he was measured for the title, he was also weighed at 10kg or 22lb.
1 Bao Xishun – 7ft 9in
Bao Xishun is one of the more recognizable names on this list. When he was recognized at the world’s tallest man, he was involved in a lot of publicity with He Pingping, then the world’s shortest man. The two of them appeared together in photographs that were stunning, showing the difference in their sizes. Born in 1951 in Inner Mongolia, he says that he was of normal height until the age of 16, when he began to grow taller. He served in the People’s Liberation Army for 3 years and became the world’s tallest man in 2005. He lost that title in 2009, but not before capturing the hearts of many in 2006. Two dolphins had swallowed plastic shards, and veterinarians had been unable to remove them. The dolphins could not eat and were suffering from depression. Bao Xishun was able to reach inside their stomachs and remove the shards with his 1.06-metre-long arms.