Firma Carl Hagenbeck in Germany

Firma Carl Hagenbeck

Owner1848-1913: Carl Hagenbeck
1913-1946 Heinrich Hagenbeck (1875-1945) and Lorenz Hagenbeck (1882-1956)
First elephant arrived1860
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Gottfried Claus Carl Hagenbeck (1810-1887) was a fishmonger at Grosse Petersenstrasse 16 in St. Pauli, Hamburg, Germany, who started a side business by buying and selling exotic animals, which he put at exhibit at Petersenstrasse and Spielbudenplatz. He had 2 sons and 3 daughters in his first marriage, and after his wife died in 1865, he remarried and had another 2 sons, John and Gustave, in the second.

His oldest son Carl developed the company into a succesful worldvide business, and he pioneered the concept of zoos without bars, primarly in Hagenbecks Tierpark in Hamburg, a zoo which still is private owned by the Hagenbeck family. Carl Hagenbecks brother Wilhelm Hagenbeck was a succesful animal trainer, who founded Circus Wilhelm Hagenbeck. Carls sister Marie Dorothea Louise Hagenbeck (1848-1886) married the animal dealer Charles Rice in England.

Carls halfbrother, John Hagenbeck, also assisted in the company, and established the Ceylon Zoological Gardens Company at Dehiwela, where he kept animals in transfer, before export to europe, but also exhibited animals in a small zoo, which ws open to the public. During the second world war, Ceylon Zoological Gardens Company was liquidated 1936 and confiscated as enemy property, and in 1937 renamed to Dehivela Gardens in Sri Lanka.

1844: Carl Hagenbeck jr (1844-1913) is born.

1848: Carl Sr bought six seals from a fisher, and let the public see them for 1 Schilling per person, at Spielbudenplatz, and even took them to Berlin, where after exhibiting them, they were sold.

1852: Carl Sr bought a polar bear, which was exhibited and sold.

1857: Carl went with his father to Vienna, and bought animals from Dr. Natterer, which were sold to menageries and Antwerpen Zoo.

1859: Carl Hagenbeck, completes his school by the age of 15, and takes over the animal trade.

1860: Bought the first african elephant (Gröning/Saller), which had problems with a leg, and was sold to Hamburg Natural History museum, where it was killed and exhibited as texidermy. The company C. Hagenbecks Handlungs-Menagerie St. Pauli is described on posters.

1863: Opened the new C. Hagenbecks Handlungs-Menagerie on 6226 m2 at Spielbudenplatz 19, St. Pauli, Hamburg, which he had bought from the heritage of Gottfried Jamrach, father of animal dealer Charles Jamrach.

1864: Carl Hagenbeck started to cooperate with the austrian animal dealer Lorenzo Casanova who imported animals, mostly from Sudan in Africa.

1865: 2 African elephants from Lorenzo Casanova: Bismarck? (According to Gröning/Saller 3 elephants, from Sudan)

1866: Import of 6 africans from Sudan (Casanova). 3 exported to animal dealer Reiche in USA, 4 to animal dealer Charles Rice in United Kingdom. (According to Gröning/Saller 12 african (Sudan) elephants during 1866)

1867: According to Gröning import of 14 elephants from Sudan. Another export of 10-12 africans to USA

1868: Import of a group of African elephants via Trieste, 3 died during on the train because of bite-wonds from rats.

1870: Hagenbeck must travel to Suez in Egypt, and take over a shipmeant of animals, including 5 elephants, from Casanova, who was sick in fever,and died in Alexandria. Casanovas death ended their partnership, and Hagenbeck started to organize his africa imports himself.

1871: Charles Jamrach returned from India with elephants and other animals, which was bought from Carl Hagenbeck.

1866-1872: Hagenbeck sold 61 elephants.

1873: Carls younger brother Dietrich died in black fever 1873 while searching for hippos in Zanzibar.

1874: In April the family, company and all animals was moved to Carl Hagenbecks Tierpark at Neue Pferdemarkt, Hamburg.

1875: The first Völkerschau toured Germany.

1879: Carl Hagenbeck was married 1871 with Amanda Mehrmann (1849-1939), sister to his old friend Heinrich Mehrmann. Of his ten children, only five survived until his death, and 13 grandchildren.

1880: Importing elephants for P.T. Barnum (and Adam Forepaugh?). Joseph Menges were send to sri Lanka to organize the import.

1881: The price for an asian elephant was 10 000 Marks.

1883-02-10: sold 3 small elephants arrived from Hamburg to Barnum, making Barnums herd of 28.

1883: Imported 67 elephants from Sri Lanka.(Carl Hagenbeck claimed in a letter to Ringling that he exported abt 100 elephants to USA between 1875 and 1882, most of them to Forepaugh and P. T. Barnum).

1883: Imported 25 elephants from Sri Lanka, via Trieste, for the Ceylon-Karawane.

1883-1884: Carl Hagenbecks Ceylonkarawane.

1885: Import of elephants from Sri Lanka, by John Hagenbeck.

1866-1886: According to Gröning, during 1866-1886 Hagenbeck imported 300 Asian elephants.

1887: The founder of the company, Gottfried Claus Carl Hagenbeck, dies in Hamburg.

1886-1889: Carl Hagenbeck Circus. (Sold 1889 to Barnum & Baileys Circus in USA)

1893: Show at Chicago Worlds Fair, with apr 1000 animals.

1896: C.H. developed the first animal enclosures without bars.

1897: Show at Venedig in Wien in Vienna, Austria, after the show sold elephant Lizzie to Dan Fitzgerald (senior partner in the firm of Fitzgerald Bros.)

1898: From import of India, the 4 elephants Salt, Sauce (later Jumbo), Vinegar and Mustard, were trained by Wilhelm Philadelphia, a number called "The Cruet", which was sold to England in 1902 and later presented as "Lockharts Elephants".

1902: advertising: 12 elephants, including an elephant mother with baby.

1903: Lorenz Hagenbeck went to Sonepur cattle market in India and bought 20 elephants for import to Germany.

1904: Carl Hagenbeck had 43 elephants in Stellingen.

1904: In Lorenz Hagenbeck's book he wrote about bringing 36 elephants to the US. 20 went to Luna Park in Coney Island, 8 to Ringling, and 8 to the show at the 1904 STL World's Fair (Josky, Moms, Monte, Nancy, Pinto, Topsy, Trilby, +1 more, possibly Baby?). [Source]

1904-1905: Hagenbeck Animal Show at St. Louis Worlds Fair.

1905-1907: Carl Hagenbecks Wild Animal Circus, USA

1907: Carl Hagenbecks Tierpark in Stellingen, Hamburg. Many Zoos in Europe saw this as a competiton, and after 1907 many Zoos prefered to buy their elephants from Hagenbecks new competitor Firma Ruhe.

1908: 13 elephants in Stellingen. (Von Tieren und Menchen, by Carl Hagenbeck)

1910: Hagenbecks sells a trained group of three elephants to Ringling:

Records about from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at
In 1910 the Ringlings revived the Forepaugh-Sells Circus and purchased an act from Hagenbeck in Germany that consisted of three young elephants "Nellie", "Jennie" and "Rio" included in the act were several Great Dane dogs.Buckles Woodcocks blog

1911: Opening of Rome Zoo, the master plan was developed by Carl Hagenbeck and his son Heinrich.

1912: "The Völkerschau Am Nil", with egyptian culture.

1913: "The Völkerschau Birma", with burmese culture.

1913-04-13: Carl Hagenbeck dies. After his death 1913, most of his business were taken over by his two sons, Heinrich Hagenbeck (1875-1945) and Lorenz Hagenbeck (1882-1956).

1916: Carls son Lorenz Hagenbeck (1882-1956), started Circus Carl Hagenbeck - Stellingen which saved the company during the wartimes, when animal trade declined, and the zoo was closed. This circus toured all over the world until 1953.

1920: The zoo Carl Hagenbecks Tierpark closed, due to the financial situation.

1921: Four elephants arrived from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baileys circus in USA: Jess, Barnum Queen, Veneda, and Mary.

1922: Jürgen Johannsen, brought the first large contingent of animals in the postwar period of trade from India into the port of Hamburg. Heinrich Hagenbeck was in North America when the herd of ten young elephants arrived. (Animals Are My Life, by Lorenz Hagenbeck)

1924: Hagenbecks Tierpark opened again. (Animals Are My Life, by Lorenz Hagenbeck)

1934-12-18: Exported 6 Burmese elephants (2-4-yrs) to Bertram Mills Circus in UK.. They were trained by John Gindl, upon suggestion of Hagenbeck to Mills. 3 sold to Circus Darix Togni in Italy in 1957, and the last 3 later sold to Boswell-Wilkies Circus in South Africa.(Source: Bertram Mills, by David Jamieson, 1998, through Raffael de Ritis, 2012.)

1940: John Hagenbeck died in a prison camp in Colombo in 1940.

1944: Bombing of the Zoo: The worst part of it, however, was the fire, which was now quite beyond control. When the first incendiaries came down on the roof of the elephant house and this burst into flames, our resourceful chief keeper, Fritz Theisinger, quickly loosed his fourteen elephants, which he had kept tethered by only one hind leg, and led them outside. There they could try to avoid the incendiaries which were falling everywhere, and they took refuge in the large pool. Next, aided by the Czech P.O.W.s, he made an attempt to save the house, but at this point the P.O.W.s lost their nerve and ran away. Animals Are My Life, by Lorenz Hagenbeck

Source and citings for the article Firma Carl Hagenbeck

Reference list

Firma Carl Hagenbeck, Elephant Encyclopedia, Koehl, D. (2020), (available online at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

  • Hagenbeck, Lorenz, Animals Are My Life, (available at
  • Beasts and Men, by Carl Hagenbeck
  • Carl Hagenbeck, by Haug von Kuenheim
  • >Page 14, 19, 42, Funfundzwanzig Jahre Ceylonaswx, 1922, by John Hagenbeck.
  • Page 20, Elefanten in Zoo und Circus, Dokumentation 2 Nordamerika, 1997, by European Elephant Group: Haufellner, Schilfarth, Schweiger
  • Page 270, Elephants: A Cultural and Natural History, by Karl Groning and Martin Saller

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