Old John
Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) at
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in United States

dead elephant ☨ ♂ Old John  dead elephant

Alternative name: John L. Sullivan, Othello, Tiny, Light of Asia



Species:Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)
Sex and age:Male ♂
Born:* wild
Birth place: in Asia unspecified location
Dead: 1932-01-16
Death reason: unknown:
Locations - owners
Present / last location:Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, in United States

Date of arrival

1919-00-00Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
from Ringling Bros. Circus

1911-00-00Ringling Bros. Circus
from Forepaugh-Sells Show

1896-00-00Forepaugh-Sells Show
from Adam Forepaugh Circus

1884-03-00Adam Forepaugh Circus
from Port of Philadelphia

1884-00-00Port of Philadelphia
from Port of Liverpool

1884-00-00Port of Liverpool 1884-00-00
from William Cross Zoological Establishment

William Cross Zoological Establishment
from Edward VII of the United Kingdom

Record history
History of updates2023-04-29

Latest document update2021-09-25 17:27:30
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† Old John is a dead Male ♂ Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), , who died 1932-01-16 at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, in United States, .


Old John was born wild at Asia unspecified location.

Comments / pictures

1883: Cross sold it to Forepaugh just before Christmas, 1883.
1884: arrived with the ship "city of Chester" from Liverpool, UK.
1884: Advertised by Adam Forepaugh as the white elephant Light of Asia.
Though the fraud was exposed, Forepaugh continued to extol the Light of Asia for the remainder of the season. Forepaugh announced that he died suddenly at Winter quarters on November 18, 1884.Richard Reynolds.
1885: under the name John L. Sullivan, trained by the black elephant man, Ephraim Thompson.
1932: He died at the Sarasota, FL winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus on January 16, 1932. Richard Reynolds

Adam Forepaugh‟s elephant was originally named Othello when bought from the Prince of Wales. His name was changed to Tiny as he was bleached white for the appearance of a white elephant then became known as John L. Sullivan a wonderful elephant that stayed with the circus grandeur for almost fifty years, finally dying of natural causes on January 16, 1932 in the winter quarters of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.Bob Cline

"This is George Denman having completed the march from the cars and dismounted from his horse is leading the Herd into Colts Park, Hartford, Ct. 7/9/30. The show carried 34 elephants that season including 3 males surprisingly all tuskless, John, Sammy and Joe. Denman appears quite dapper with his bow tie and riding breeches, all his assistants were expected to wear ties as well as you can see on Cowboy Taylor and Edward Doherty riding "John". This was Denmans 23rd season under Ringling employ, having been in the elephant Dept. with Barnum & Bailey when that show was purchased by the Ringlings. He retired during the 1933 season and was replaced by another old timer Bill Emory. Denman died in 1937."
Buckles Web Log, 06/21/05

"In 1917 the Barnum Show carried 18 Asian elephants, four of which were males. Two tuskers "Pilate" and "Mighty" and two that had no Ivory at all "Albert" and "Coco".
To the uninformed, P.T. Barnum and James A. Bailey were long since dead by this time and the show was owned by the Ringling Brothers. Two years later both shows and titles were merged and the 1919 show carried 36 elephants adding three more Tuskless males "Sammy", "Rio" and "John". This phenomenon is not all that unusual but I have read that Tuskless males in the jungle will instinctly become more ferocious in order to compete with tuskers.
My dad was on the show in 1920 taking care of two camels named "Victor" and "Rosie" and added that the only Tusker at that time was "Mighty" and he had knobs on the end of his Tusks but for some reason they were flat like door knobs. He also mentioned that when the elephant men mounted up to ride to the train the Ringling elephants raised them up with their trunks and the Barnum elephants used their left front foot. Buckles"

Barnum & Bailey/ Mooneys musical elephants, Buckles Web Log, 07/21/05

Contradictory records:

EEG state death at Baldwin Park, but Buckles Woodcock writes:
"John on the other hand, had a long career with the Forepaugh Show, 4-Paw-Sells, Ringling Bros., and Ringling-Barnum before his death at the Sarasota Quarters on Jan. 16, 1932."

Reference list


Koehl, Dan, (2024). Old John, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) located at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in United States. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 18 July 2024 at https://www.elephant.se/database2.php?elephant_id=2358. (archived at the Wayback machine)

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Categories1932 deaths | Elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus | United States | Asian elephants

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