Hatfields & McCoys: Could genetics have contributed to the feud?

I ran across this article years ago, and thought those watching the Hatfields & McCoys may find it interesting.

The most infamous feud in American folklore, the long-running battle between the Hatfields and McCoys, may be partly explained by a rare, inherited disease that can lead to hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts.

Dozens of McCoy descendants apparently have the disease, which causes high blood pressure, racing hearts, severe headaches and too much adrenaline and other “fight or flight” stress hormones.

No one blames the whole feud on this, but doctors say it could help explain some of the clan’s notorious behavior.

You can read the article in its entirety atΒ http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-04-05-hatfield-mccloy-disease_N.htm


12 thoughts on “Hatfields & McCoys: Could genetics have contributed to the feud?

  1. I had read this article a few years ago. Found it interesting that my dad, a McCoy, died of adreanal gland cancer, which is extremely rare, according to his oncologist.

  2. Rand’l McCoy is my mothers 4x great uncle. One symptom of the disease is a detached retina which happened to mom suddenly and mysteriously when she was 64 years old.

    The family also has an issue with intrafamily grudges and anger. One member was “shunned” over 50 years ago and STILL hasn’t tried to make amends. What a waste of energy.

  3. I was thinking about how much PTSD would have effected the men returning returning from the civil war to their lives where guns and hunting were necessary. Both the PTSD and Von Hippel-Lindau disease would make a very traumatized person who would have triggers everywhere and little resources to deal with frustrations. In that time there would have been no specialized medical care in the hollow. What kind of treatment is available for Von Hippel-Lindau disease today?

    • That is a very good question. The McCoys have been treated at a major hospital, which has used them for a study. Beyond that, I honestly would not know since I am not in the medical field, but I certainly hope there is an effective treatment.

      Also, I absolutely agree with you about the PTSD. Despite being a Hatfield – or perhaps because I am a Hatfield – I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for Randall McCoy. As you said, he was extremely traumatized by the war, and it is tragic that he was not able to receive the kind of medical care all veterans deserve. 😦

      • It seems to me that all of the men who fought in the civil war and anyone else who witnessed the hellish fighting. Each man would have a different predisposition to PTSD. The series seemed to highlight Randolph’s symptoms and journey back from the war but I am sure most veterans of that time would have been deeply effected.

  4. I believe my grandfather had the disorder as well. He has an adrenal tumor the size of a grapefruit removed. He had high levels of adrenoline which threw him into a massive heart attach after the tumor was removed. He was a cousin to the McCoys.

      • Thank you. He has the surgery in Nov 1992 and died of a massive heart attack the following March. Interestingly he was known for having an explosive temper when he was young. Also, I wonder if my brother may have it. He is 29, thin, but has high blood pressure and a horrible temper. His blood pressure meds help keep his temper in check. It would be interesting to know.

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