Jumbo an African savanna elephant at Barnum and Bailey Circus

 ☨ ♂ Jumbo  
Jumbo with his trainer Matthew Scott in London Zoo.
Jumbo with his trainer Matthew Scott in London Zoo.

Taxidermy locationBarnum Museum of Natural History, Medford, United States


SSP nr301


Species:African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Sex and age:Male ♂ 24 years old
Body height: 3.32 meter, 10.9 feet
Body weight: 6500.00 kg, 14300.00 lbs
Born:* 1861 wild
Birth place:
Dead date: 1885-09-15
Death reason: accident: crushed by a locomotive at train station in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada
Present / last location:Barnum and Bailey Circus, in United States

Date of Arrival
(Presently sometimes errors!)

1882-04-09Barnum and Bailey Circus
from London Zoo
London Zoo 1865-06-27
from Menagerie du Paris Jardin des Plantes
Menagerie du Paris Jardin des Plantes 1861-00-00
from Johann Schmidt

Document updated2010-11-12: height and weight
2011-04-26: SSP RE
Relevant literature

† Jumbo is a dead Male ♂ African savanna elephant, (Loxodonta africana), who died at Barnum and Bailey Circus, in United States, of accident in 1885-09-15. Official death reason described as crushed by a locomotive at train station in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

The remains of this elephant is within the Taxidermy collection at Barnum Museum of Natural History, in Medford, United States.

(see detailed list).


Jumbo was born wild 1861. and imported 1861

Comments / pictures

Born and captured in Abbesinia or French Sudan, the small african elephant bull calf was brought to Cairo and purchased by the animal collector Johann Schmidt, who resold him to the menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, where he was exhibited with an african female, Alice.

By the initiative of superintendent of the London Zoo, Abraham Bartlett, Jumbo and Alice was transfered to London Zoo as exchange for an indian rhino.

"Bartlett sent Matthew Scott, a self-made expert in animal husbandry who had been with the London Zoo for more than a decade, to accompany the elephant to his new home. Upon arrival in Paris, the keeper was appalled: "A more deplorable, diseased and rotten creature never walked God's earth," he would recall. Scott never took a wife and essentially lived with Jumbo for the duration of the elephant's life, nursing the animal to robust health and sharing bottles of whiskey with him. He clearly emerges as one of several eccentrics brought to life here."Paul Chambers, Jumbo: The Greatest Elephant in the World

Jumbo became very populair with the public in London, and used as a riding elephant, and he grew to a size of 11 1/2 feet in height and 6 1/2 tons in weight.

Records about Jumbo from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at http://www.bucklesw.blogspot.com/
He was not as tall as some would have him. The best I've read on that was attributed to Wm. Blackburne, first supt. of National Zoo (and formerly with Barnum & London in Jumbo's years). He said that the interior of Jumbo's special RR car was exactly 11 ft. from floor to ceiling and that one could put the width of a hand between the top of the highest point of Jumbo's back and the ceiling. So, Jumbo was about 10 ft. 9 in. tall. Still very impressive though a number of other captive African males have topped that.

Richard Reynolds

Jumbo to America

"It was not Barnum but his partner, James Bailey, who proposed making an offer to the Londoners to bring the big animal to America. As was his habit, however, Barnum soon made the cause his own. By 1882 Bartlett was fed up with Scott, Jumbo's unruly trainer, who often used his hold over the elephant as blackmail against his employers. When the offer came from overseas to purchase the beast, Bartlett accepted - much to the chagrin of the zoo's constituency, which made its objections heard loud and clear."Paul Chambers, Jumbo: The Greatest Elephant in the World

Jumbo was sold in 1882 to P. T. Barnum, owner of "The Greatest Show on Earth", the Barnum & Bailey Circus for $10,000 US. A hundred thousand school children wrote Queen Victoria, begging her not to let Jumbo go, and lawsuits were brought against the society's officers for making the sale.

As a result of Barnum's publicity the word "jumbo" is now synonymous with "large" or "huge": billed as The Towering Monarch of His Mighty Race, Whose Like the World Will Never See Again, and huge was Barnums profit: thousands of New Yorkers met the ship on April 9, 1882, and in his first ten days with the circus menagerie, Jumbo brought in $30,000; during the first year, he earned $1.5 million. And then Jumbo was killed by a freight train at 9:30 p.m., on September 15, 1885, in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Jumbos death

The Greatest Show on Earth was almost ready playing, twenty-nine elephants had already finished their routines and had been led down the railroad tracks to their waiting cars, but the smallest, named after Tom Thumb, and the largest, Jumbo, remained to close the show. As Matthew Scott was bringing the two elephants to the wagon, he suddenly heard a wistle...

Edgar H. Flach (a well-known jeweler from St. Thomas, Ontario) wrote a first-person account:

The flagman was frantically waving his lantern, trying to stop the oncoming train… Scotty realized the danger. "Run, Jumbo, Run," he cried, half sobbing . . . I could see Jumbo running down the tracks. His trunk was held high in the air and his trumpeting sent paralyzing shivers down either side of my spine. At that moment the locomotive struck the small elephant, hurtling him down the embankment and against a telephone pole. Jumbo in the meantime had kept on at a break-neck speed. He remembered the opening in the line of cars, but… ran two car lengths past the opening before he realized his mistake. He stopped and turned. Then it was that the pilot of the engine struck him.

His head was bleeding, and hide was ripped open the entire length of his back. Jumbo lay there, barely breathing, for three hours before he finally died.

The animal… reached out his long trunk, wrapped it around the trainer and then drew him down to where that majestic head lay blood stained in the cinders. Scotty cried like a baby. Five minutes later, they lifted him from the lifeless body... That night Scotty laid down beside the body of his friend. At last exhausted from the strain, he fell asleep.

When Jumbo died, his stomach was found to contain hundreds of coins, dozens more keys, and a police officer's whistle. Jumbo's skeleton, after traveling for a few seasons with the circus, went to the American Museum of Natural History, in New York. His hide, of course, went to Medford, where tugging on his tail for luck became such a tradition that the tail came off decades before the fire that consumed the rest of the body. Jumbo's leathery appendage resides in a box in the university archive.

"Jumbo, the prized pachyderm of P. T. Barnum, inspired the nickname of the college's sports program when the famed showman donated the mounted hide of his main attraction to the school in 1889. Stuffed Jumbo stood proudly on display in the Barnum Museum of Natural History on campus, a good-luck charm to generations of students, until 1975, when the building, and its best-known inhabitant, burned."Paul Chambers, Jumbo: The Greatest Elephant in the World

In Hardin County Ohio, there is a small town by the name of Jumbo, named after P.T Barnum's famous elephant. William Burnip, the train engineer who drove the switching engine that accidentally killed Jumbo later died in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Reference listKoehl, Dan, (2021). Jumbo, an African savanna elephant at Barnum and Bailey Circus in United States. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 19 April 2021 at https://www.elephant.se/database2.php?elephant_id=2109. (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:


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  • Categories1885 deaths | Barnum Museum of Natural History Taxidermy | 1861 births | Born in Ethiopia | 1861 imports | Elephants from Barnum and Bailey Circus | United States | African savanna elephants

    This document was updated: 2020-10-24 05:51:40

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