All my 888 children

Moulay Ismail was the Henry Ford of mass copulation.

Posted Aug 31, 2010

Hef, take note.  You may have heard the legend of Moulay Ismail, often referred to as “The Bloodthirsty,” Sharifian Emperor of Morocco (1672--1727) alleged to have sired not 8, not 88, but 888* viable children. He was the Henry Ford of mass copulation.  But he did it using coercion.  

At the International Society for Human Ethology (ISHE) held in Madison, Wisconsin this year, two researchers from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Vienna in Austria.   Karl Grammer and Elisabeth Oberzaucher presented data in a poster summarizing their peek into Moulay’s methods, they consulted notes from the French Diplomat at the time, Dominique Busnot.  Moulay’s reproductive lifespan lasted 27 busy years, from 18 to 45.  

Of the reported approximately 1100 children from 500 fertile females, Grammer and Oberzaucher took into account the dynamic nature of reproductive options.  

According to Busnot’s report, in 1704 Moulay, then 45, was informed that had 600 sons (daughters were dispatched at birth).  He had a mere four wives.  However, supplementing his supply of females were 500 so called concubines imprisoned and in his command.  They were guarded until 30 by a eunuch and allowed no visitors or travel.  Any suspicion of infidelity to the Emperor was severely punished.  Strangers were not allowed to gaze upon these kept females.  

Testing the data using two methods, they assessed a variety of variables.  Religious taboos on sex, ovulation detection, and fetal mortality were perused. The probability of ovulatory constraints, Moulay’s favoritism or odds of falling in love were also incorporated in their models.  Choice of Moulay’s random female, fertility rates, conception probability, and survival rates also incorporated.  

Their findings:  Around one or two “copulations” per day (1.45 daily) could account for the sizable number of progeny.  

Moulay’s foray informs us not only about male reproductive ceilings, but the willingness to avail oneself of opportunities when socially or politically (or coercively) possible.  

Genghis Khan, a predecessor, and no slouch when it came to ravaging and ravishing in the 13th century, reportedly sired a genetic tsunami that led to roughly 16 million descendants alive today. Eight percent of the men living in the region of his former empire carry Y-chromosomes that are almost identical to his.  We’d have to exhume him for a paternity test.  

Female sexual choices have a powerful effect on the gene pool, but not in this case.  Social constraints and a coercive theocracy aligned to subvert them. The lengths to which men have gone to control females when opportunity arises are legendary, and this study goes a long way to show that some legends are, in fact, true.  

*The Guinness Book of World Records has raised the estimate from 888 to 1042.

For more on their study visit

Satoshi Kanazawa has explored this phenomenon is his own inimitable way here: