The Kayan are a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Burma (Myanmar). The Kayan consists of the following groups: Kayan Lahwi (also called Padaung, ပဒေါင် [bədàʊɴ]), Kayan Ka Khaung (Gekho), Kayan Lahta, Kayan Ka Ngan. Kayan Gebar, Kayan Kakhi and, sometimes, Kayaw.
Women of the various Kayan tribes identify themselves by their different form of dress. Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe are well known for wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. The women wearing these coils are known as giraffe women to tourists.
Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one, and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collar bone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. Many ideas regarding why the coils are worn have been suggested, often formed by visiting anthropologists, who have hypothesized that the rings protected women from becoming slaves by making them less attractive to other tribes. Contrastingly it has been theorised that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism, as women have more slender necks than men. It has also been suggested that the coils give the women resemblance to a dragon, an important figure in Kayan folklore . The coils might be meant to protect from tiger bites, perhaps literally, but probably symbolically.