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Jumbo facts for kids

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Jumbo poster.jpg
Circus poster
Species African elephant
Sex Male
Born Christmas 1860
East Africa
Died September 15, 1885(1885-09-15) (aged 24)
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Zoo and circus attraction
Years active 1862–1885
Owner Jardin des Plantes
London Zoo
P. T. Barnum
Weight 12,000 lb (5,400 kg)
Height 12 ft (3.7 m)
Named after Mumbo Jumbo, an African idol

Jumbo (about Christmas 1860 – September 15, 1885) was the first international animal superstar. He was the first African elephant to reach modern Europe alive. He was born in eastern Africa, and captured there by Arabian hunters in early 1862. He was sold first to a traveling zoo in Germany, then to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. He was traded to the London Zoological Gardens for a rhinoceros.

Jumbo lived in the London Zoo about 16 years. He was the biggest elephant in captivity. American circus showman P. T. Barnum simply had to have this huge elephant in his circus. He bought Jumbo in 1882. The elephant made his debut in the United States on Easter Sunday 1882 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He toured with Barnum's circus for three years. In September 1885, he was killed in a railroad accident in Canada.

Jumbo attracted as much attention after his death as he did in life. His hide was stuffed and his bones preserved. His hide and skeleton were displayed first with Barnum's circus and then with museums. His hide was destroyed in a fire at Tufts University in 1975. His skeleton was displayed for many years in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. As time passed, children forgot about him. His skeleton was put away.

Early life

Pre-1886 photo of Jumbo

It is impossible to know exactly where or when Jumbo was born. In February 1862, a British explorer met Jumbo in the desert camp of Arabian elephant hunters. This camp was on the border of eastern Sudan and Abyssinia (now, Eritrea). The hunters had been hired to capture wild animals for export to European zoos.

The explorer estimated that Jumbo was 4 feet (120 cm) tall and weighed about 500 pounds (230 kg). Based on his height and weight, Jumbo was about one year old. He was probably born at Christmas 1860.

Jumbo had a long, hot journey ahead of him. He walked several hundred miles with other wild animals to the Red Sea. At the port of Suakin, the little elephant was put aboard a steamship. In time, he arrived in Trieste, Italy. From Italy, he was taken by train to Dresden, Germany. He was then sold to a traveling zoo.

Jardin des Plantes

Paris Jardin des Plantes 7
Rotunda in the Jardin des Plantes

In late 1862, Jumbo was sold to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Jumbo was probably brought to his new home in either late 1862 or early 1863. The French were disappointed with him; they thought he would be larger. Jumbo lived in the Rotunda for Large Herbivores with two Asian elephants, several camels and giraffes, and a hippopotamus.

In October 1863, two more baby African elephants and several camels were brought to the Rotunda. The little elephants were called Castor and Pollux. They played together and slept together. Children loved the new elephants. The two animals came to be called "the pets of young Paris". Jumbo did not want attention from people; he stayed in his stable. Five elephants now lived in the Rotunda of the Jardin.

In April 1865, the government found that the living conditions in the Jardin were very bad. Officials thought some of the elephants should be sent to zoos in other countries. The officials of the London Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park wanted an African elephant. They traded an Indian rhinoceros and a few other animals for Jumbo. He was brought to the London Zoo in June 1865.

London Zoological Gardens

Jumbo als Kalb
Jumbo and his keeper Matthew "Scotty" Scott

Jumbo was very ill when he arrived at the London Zoo. He had not been fed properly. His hide was covered with filth that had to be scraped and scrubbed off. The nails on his feet were overgrown, and the soles of his feet were covered with sores.

Abraham Bartlett, the Superintendent of the London Zoological Gardens, put the little elephant into the care of animal keeper Matthew "Scotty" Scott. Scotty had a talent for understanding and managing animals. Jumbo grew stronger and healthier under Scotty's care.

Jumbo became a great attraction in the London Zoo. Queen Victoria and members of the Royal Family adored him. Children rode in the saddle (howdah) on his back for a penny. The young Winston Churchill (and probably Queen Victoria's children Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice) rode in Jumbo's howdah.

By the time Jumbo was seven years old, he had a huge appetite. Every day he ate 200 pounds (91 kg) of hay, a barrel of potatoes, two bushels of oats, fifteen loaves of bread, and lots of onions. He also drank several pails of water.

Jumbo sketches
Drawings of moments in Jumbo's life from the Illustrated London News, February 25, 1882

In 1880, Jumbo hit his iron cage doors with his tusks and broke both off near the jawbone. He was in pain. He stopped eating. He leaned against the walls for support. Bartlett and Scotty were forced to perform surgery. After the surgery, Jumbo kept his tusks worn away by rubbing them against the walls of the Elephant House. They never grew more than a few inches long.

In 1882, Jumbo was 12 feet (3.7 m) tall at the shoulder. He weighed more than 12,000 pounds (5,400 kg). His trunk was 7 feet (2.1 m) long. It could reach high into the trees. In the magazine Harper's Weekly, Jumbo was said to be gentle with children, the magazine said he gently took biscuits and lumps of sugar from zoo visitors.

Jumbo is sold

Jumbo refuses to leave London Zoo
"Jumbo's pitiful refusal to leave London Zoo tugged at the nation's heartstrings" (Magazine illustration, 1882)

In 1882, Jumbo was the biggest elephant living in captivity. Bartlett thought it best to find a new home for Jumbo for two reasons. First, he thought Jumbo was about to enter musth. This is a difficult time in a male elephant's life. Certain glands in the elephant's head become inflamed causing the animal to behave violently. The other reason Bartlett wanted to move Jumbo was the elephant's close relationship with Scotty. Bartlett thought Jumbo might go on a dangerous rampage if Scotty should die.

Jumbo had tantrums. He would try to damage the Elephant House at night. He may have been frightened and angry because Scotty went home every night. He was only calm during the day when Scotty was nearby or when he carried children around the zoo in his howdah. Jumbo's behavior only made Bartlett more sure that he must find another home for the elephant. Years after Jumbo's death, zoologists studied casts of the elephant's teeth. They discovered that his molars were erupting abnormally and probably causing him pain. This was likely the reason for Jumbo's tantrums.

Bartlett and members of the London Zoological Society were happy when P. T. Barnum, a circus showman from the United States offered to buy Jumbo for $10,000. Barnum had once owned two museums in New York City. They had burned to the ground. He was now part-owner of the Barnum, Bailey, & Hutchinson Circus. Barnum knew the huge elephant would make him a fortune if he appeared with the circus.

Barnum wanted Jumbo more than he wanted any other elephant in the world because Jumbo was the biggest elephant in the world. Bartlett and the London Zoological Society took only two days to decide that Jumbo would be sold to Barnum.

When the British learned that their beloved Jumbo was going to be sold, they were outraged. Bartlett received many angry letters. Children begged Bartlett to keep Jumbo in London. An effort was made to stop the sale by going to court, but Barnum won. The British courts said he was the legal owner of Jumbo.

A large wheeled box was built to hold Jumbo during his journey to America. It was made of heavy pine boards bolted to a strong oak base, and made even stronger with iron straps. It measured 14 feet (4.3 m) long, 8 feet (2.4 m) wide, and 12 feet (3.7 m) high. It was large enough for Jumbo to stand in it, but it was not large enough for him to lie down or turn around. Although the ends of the box were open, they were made strong with iron bars. Jumbo could look out the open end and swing his trunk.

Jumbo is persuaded to walk through the box outside his den
Scotty persuades Jumbo to walk through the box outside the London Zoo's Elephant House

Plans were made to move Jumbo on February 18. Jumbo would not get into the box. A second attempt was made on February 19 with the same result. Jumbo laid down in the street. Crowds of people cheered for Jumbo. He stayed in the street for a week. Bartlett thought Scotty was controlling Jumbo with a secret signal to keep him from getting into the box. He told Scotty he would be fired if Jumbo did not get into the box. The next day, Scotty got Jumbo to enter the box. Barnum hired Scotty to take care of Jumbo even though he had many elephant keepers in the United States.


Jumbo Feeds Baby Castoria
Jumbo feeds a laxative called Castoria to a baby elephant in an advertisement

People around the world were interested in the sale of Jumbo. Souvenirs such as Jumbo neckties, fans, and hats were sold in England and America. Jumbo's picture was printed on thousands of advertisements. Some of these advertisements showed Jumbo in strange places like the opera house and a saloon in the Wild West.

Potholders, cigars, and a large sewing machine were all named after Jumbo. Soap, thread, and baking powder were sold using Jumbo's name. One advertisement from this time shows Jumbo in leather boots running across a desert.

Jumbo arrives in America

Assyrian Monarch 1882
Assyrian Monarch (The Pictorial World, 1882)

Jumbo arrived in the New York harbor about midnight on Easter Sunday April 9, 1882 after almost two weeks on the sea. A telegram was sent to the London Times telling the British that Jumbo had arrived safely in America and was in good health. Jumbo's crate was lifted from the hold of the Assyrian Monarch to a small steamer called Only Son. Jumbo was ferried across the Hudson River to the New York docks.

Barnum and his partners Bailey and Hutchinson went aboard the Only Son with several journalists to see Jumbo. The elephant had traveled well. Barnum was thrilled with Jumbo. Everyone was talking about the animal, and this meant ticket sales.

Jumbo's arrival in New York
Jumbo's arrival in New York City

Superintendent Hatfield of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children came aboard the Only Son. He had heard reports of Jumbo's bad temper, and boarded the ship to be certain Jumbo was not a threat to the children of New York City. Barnum told him Jumbo was "perfectly lamb-like". Hatfield took a long look at Jumbo, then left the ship with the sense that Jumbo was indeed a gentle animal.

A crowd of hundreds had gathered on shore to welcome Jumbo. By late afternoon, the crowd had grown to 10,000 impatient, noisy onlookers. Jumbo became frightened. His crate swayed as it was lifted and lowered to a waiting barge. Three cheers were raised. By 7:00 pm, Jumbo was ashore. His crate had been put on a strong wagon.

Jumbo greets New Yorkers in an imaginary picture

When the procession arrived at Madison Square Garden, Jumbo's crate was too tall for the building's entrance. He was left on the sidewalk for the night, his crate covered with tarpaulins. In the morning, blacksmiths removed the iron bars of the crate. Jumbo was free, but he would not leave the crate. Scotty stood aside to let Jumbo take his time. The elephant finally stepped out, and went into the building. Floorboards shattered under his weight.

When he reached the race track, he knelt and rolled over. Scotty assured everyone Jumbo was not dead but only resting after his long trip. He finally rose and was taken to his stall, after another rest period. Once in his stall, a heavy chain fastened to a stake was wrapped around his leg. He yanked the stake from the ground and tossed it aside. Meanwhile, the largest crowd in circus history was waiting for the afternoon performance to start.

Jumbo in America

Advertising card for Kazine featuring Jumbo reaching for candy
Advertising card shows Jumbo reaching for candy

Barnum bought Jumbo for $10,000. Jumbo's entire costs actually amounted to $30,000. Barnum later wrote that Jumbo earned his costs in his first two weeks with the circus at Madison Square Garden. Jumbo did no tricks, but 20,000 customers per day saw him in the circus zoo and the parade at the start of the show. The London Zoo had sent Jumbo's howdah to America. The great elephant gave rides to circus customers.

Jumbo travelled in luxury when he went on tour every year. He had his own railway boxcar. Barnum called it "Jumbo's Palace Car". It was a red and gold boxcar with huge double doors at the center for Jumbo to be able to go in and out easily. Scotty slept in a bunk in a little room near Jumbo's head. Jumbo would never let Scotty close the door to the little room. He loved his friend and wanted to be near him always.

In his four seasons as the top star of Barnum's circus, Jumbo never hurt anyone. Now and then though, he tested his strength by destroying parts of his winter Elephant House. Jumbo earned $1.5 million in his first year with the circus. It is likely 16 million adults and 4 million children saw him at the circus.

Advertising card featuring Young's birthday cards featuring Jumbo carrying children
Advertising card shows Jumbo carrying children

In his last years with the circus, Jumbo's health grew poor. He could not eat his food because his teeth were worn out. There was no treatment. Jumbo would sooner or later die of this trouble with his teeth. Barnum made plans to have Jumbo preserved after his death by a taxidermist. He arranged everything while Jumbo was still alive — just in case the elephant died suddenly.

Jumbo's death

Jumbo greets visitors in London Zoo
Jumbo greets visitors in London Zoo 1880s

Jumbo was 24 when he was killed on September 15 in a rail accident in 1885, at the rail yards at St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. He died within minutes of the accident. Neither Barnum or Bailey was on the scene of the accident.

Taxidermists from Rochester, New York, eventually arrived to take charge of the body. Jumbo's death was a serious loss for the circus. So much so that Barnum took the first steps in bankruptcy proceedings a few days after the tragedy.


Jumbo the elephant - 3b52419u
Jumbo's skeleton on a poster

Jumbo's remains were sent far and wide across America. His tusks were broken into many pieces in the accident. These pieces were sold as souvenirs. Cornell University bought Jumbo's heart. The great elephant's bones toured America for a few years with the circus. They weighed 2,400 pounds (1,100 kg). Then they were sent to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. His skeleton was put on display now and then. As time passed though, children forgot him. The skeleton was put away. It was never displayed after 1977.

Jumbo's hide was stuffed in Rochester, New York. The stuffed hide toured with the circus for a few years. It was then sent to the Barnum Museum of Natural History at Tufts University. It weighed 1,538 pounds (698 kg).

P.T. Barnum's Famous "Jumbo", ca 1900
Jumbo at Tufts University about 1900

On April 14, 1975, Jumbo's hide and many other museum pieces which could never be replaced were destroyed in a fire at Tufts university.

On the 100th anniversary of Jumbo's death in 1985, a monument was built to the great elephant in St. Thomas. It stands on a bluff above the city. Not far away is a bright red caboose. It is a souvenir stand. There is also a museum at the site that displays a model of a small circus.


Jumbo statue in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

Remaining in the United Kingdom are statues and other memorabilia of Jumbo. Although the hide was destroyed by a major fire, Jumbo remains the mascot of Tufts, and representations of the elephant are featured prominently throughout the campus.

A life-sized statue of the elephant was erected in 1985 in St. Thomas, Ontario, to commemorate the centennial of the elephant's death. It is located on Talbot Street on the west side of the city. In 2006, the Jumbo statue was inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame in the category of "Railway Art Forms & Events" as having local significance.

Jumbo was the inspiration of the nickname of the 19th-century Jumbo Water Tower in the town of Colchester in Essex, England.

Lucy the Elephant, a six-story structure in Margate City, New Jersey, was modeled after Jumbo. Built by James V. Lafferty in 1881, Lucy is the oldest surviving roadside tourist attraction in America and a National Historic Landmark. Lafferty also made other Jumbo-shaped structures, including Elephantine Colossus, on Coney Island.

Lucy the Margate Elephant HABS NJ,1-MARGCI,1-7
Lucy the Elephant, a Jumbo-inspired building in New Jersey

Jumbo's enormous size caused scientists to think he was a separate species of elephant. He was the largest elephant ever known. At a later time, it was learned that Jumbo was not a separate species, but a variant of a known species.

Jumbo's legacy was the joy he gave millions of people just by being himself. His name however may be his greatest legacy. Before the big elephant, the word 'Jumbo' was not known in the English language. The word has entered the language to mean anything that is huge. People will always remember Jumbo because of this word.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Jumbo (elefante) para niños

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