Major an Asian elephant at Cole Brothers Circus

 ☨ ♂ Major  



Species:Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
Sex and age:Male ♂
Born:* wild
Birth place:
Dead date: 1936-02-10
Death reason: euthanised: shot
Present / last location:Cole Brothers Circus, in United States

Date of Arrival
(Presently sometimes errors!)

1935-11-00Cole Brothers Circus
from William P Hall Animal Farm
William P Hall Animal Farm 1926-00-00
from Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus 1925-00-00
from John Robinson Circus
John Robinson Circus 1915-00-00
from Howes Great London Circus (Mugivan and Bowers)
Howes Great London Circus (Mugivan and Bowers) 1909-00-00
from Van Amburgh Circus (Mugivan & Bowers)
Van Amburgh Circus (Mugivan & Bowers) 1905-00-00
from Jerry Mugivan
Jerry Mugivan 1905-00-00
from Major John Gosney

Document updated2012-01-11: 
Relevant literature

† Major is a dead musth Male ♂ Asian elephant, (Elephas maximus), who died at Cole Brothers Circus, in United States, of euthanised in 1936-02-10. Official death reason described as shot. (see detailed list).


Major was born wild .

Comments / pictures

Walter Powell, aged 22, St. Louis, an elephant trainer with the Cole Brothers Circus, was badly injured at 7 oclock Saturday morning when he was attacked and then trampled by Major the largest elephant in the circus herd of thirty pachyderms.
Powell received injuries to his face and body which required twelve stitches to close. The injuries were caused by the sharp tusks of the elephant.
The attack occurred while Powell was cleaning up the elephant quarters. He was rescued by other workers who beat off the elephant. Major had always been docile and what provoked the attack was not learned.
Mr. Powell works a number of elephants in a circus act. Major was the lead elephant. Powell is a veteran circus man. He was born while his parents were employed by a circus. Powell traveled with the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus for a number of years and has been with the Cole Brothers Circus since its organization.
[The News-Sentinel, Saturday, January 18, 1936]

By Earl Sisson
Major, recalcitrant 3-ton herd leader of Cole Bros.-Clyde Beatty elephants, is dead. He died Saturday, the victim of a steel bullet fired by Omer Cole, one of the original Cole Brothers. The execution took place in the yard at the rear of the elephant barn, while other members of the pachyderm group looked on.
Thus ended a career of more than thirty years in the American circus for one of the largest bull elephants on this continent - a career which stamped him as the heaviest tusked pachyderm to be found this side of the Atlantic ocean.
Those tusks, pride of all showmen who handled him, are all that is left of the big fellow, which last weekend went berserk, attacked his trainers and all but seriously injured J. E. Smith, his handler, who for the past thirty years has guided the "Bulls" career through the programs of half a dozen major circuses.
Second Attack
Last Thursday, Major became resentful toward Smith, though in the past he has always shown a marked liking for the veteran trainer. He was being led around the training rings for exercise by other handlers, when Smith came up. Suddenly the heavy trunk was raised, the bull trumpeted. Smith stepped forward in an effort to soothe him, but the trunk descended quickly, accurately, and the trainer was thrown headlong to the ground.
Other handlers came to the rescue. Smith was told to go to the lavatory to wash the blood from an injured arm. Major was led on, around the ring. Again opposite the lavatory, he trumpeted and broke for the washroom. He was restrained only after much difficulty.
Fearful that he might get out of hand, the elephant was chained securely and left to cool off. Smith was given first aid, but it became obvious that he could no longer handle the bug bull. On Friday, other handlers found Major in a bad frame of mind. One after another, they attempted to approach him, but each was checkmated in his attempt by the swishing trunk and the formidable six-foot tusks, for none had forgotten the attack made a few weeks ago upon Walter Powell, and the close brush with death which followed, when the elephant tried to gore and trample the luckless man to death.
Decide on Execution
Omer Cole, student and hunter of big game, and reputed one of the finest rifle shots in American, was called into conference. He studied the big fellow seriously, noticed that the small indentation in the middle of the beasts forehead, which corresponds in a manner to the soft spot on an infants head, was badly swollen, it was the indubitable sign of madness which all elephant men recognize. The verdict was that the big fellow, one of the most valuable of his kind in the country, must go.
Planned Execution
Mr. Cole selected a 80-30 calibre rifle for the job. Major was led out of the barn heavily chained. The snow and ice infuriated him. He snorted, trumpeted, and tugged at his bonds. A corps of helpers urged him on with bull-hooks and gaffs. Clear of the barn, he stopped, refused to move farther on. Cole stepped off fifteen paces and took his stance, rifle to shoulder. Major eyed him contemptuously, the heavy trunk raised as if he were ready to charge. The rifle cracked. Witnesses saw the huge frame quivver, the trunk laid supinely over the head, there was a fast derisive snort, and the tons of flesh sank slowly to the ground. Major had closed his 70 years of life as he had lived them with a challenge to mankind.
Examination proved that the bullet had found the vulnerable spot - that small soft spot in the forehead. Mr. Coles aim had been faultless.

Bought Last Fall
Major came to local circus quarters last Fall from Lancaster, Missouri. His last active appearances were with the now defunct Robbins Bros. shows, about seven years ago. He was one of nine elephants purchased from the Hall Estate by the Cole Bros. His record is said to have been spotted, he having showed signs of madness several times previously. It is said, however, that not until his recent attack on Powell, who is not fully recovered as yet, did he show indications of becoming unmanagible.
His tusks have been salvaged, and will become a part of the Cole collection, along with those of "Snyder," and other elephants which have gone berserk in captivity.
The loss of Major leaves the local circus with only two male elephants, Mahatma Gandhi and Jumbo 2nd, the huge African.
[The News-Sentinel, Monday, February 10, 1936]

Reference listKoehl, Dan, (2021). Major, an Asian elephant at Cole Brothers Circus in United States. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 13 May 2021 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

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  • Categories1936 deaths | Elephants from Cole Brothers Circus | United States | Asian elephants

    This document was updated: 2020-10-18 06:25:24

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