Hugo Schmitt

From the list of elephant persons Family: Schmitt

Hugo Schmitt
Hugo  Schmitt
Hugo Schmitt, 1944
Personal details
Country United States

Title chief elephant trainer 1972-1973
Location at Circus World (Venice) in United States

Title chief elephant trainer 1963-1964
Location at Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus European Tour in United States

Title chief elephant trainer 1956-1956
Location at Leonard Brothers Circus in United States

Title chief elephant trainer 1954-1955
Location at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in United States

Title chief elephant trainer 1950-1953
Location at Mills Brothers Circus in United States

Title elephant superintendent 1947-1950
Location at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in United States

Title chief elephant trainer 1944-1947
Location at Zoo Circus in Sweden

Title chief elephant trainer 1929?-1944
Location at Circus Carl Hagenbeck-Stellingen in Germany

Title elephant head-keeper 1921-1929?
Location at Carl Hagenbecks Tierpark (Stellingen) in Germany

Title elephant keeper-1921
Location at Carl Hagenbecks Tierpark (Stellingen) in Germany

Title zookeeper
Location at Carl Hagenbecks Tierpark (Stellingen) in Germany

Relevant literature
Biography details

Hugo Schmitt , circus elephant trainer in United States

Born 1904-07-19 in Germany dead 1977-08-09 in United States .

Hugo Schmitt was born in Bann, (Rheinland-Pfalz) Germany, son to Anna-Maria and lumberjack Peter Schmitt.

Schmitt started as Zookeeper at Hagenbecks Zoo, learned elephant training from Wilhelm Philadelphia, and advanced to head elephant keeper, and then became chief trainer of elephants at the Hagenbecks Circus. During the 30s he went several times to India, in order to select elephants to import to europe, and he married Jenny, from the island Sylt, in north Germany.

Hugo  SchmittRoma, Minyak and Hugo Schmitt, 1932

Hugo Schmitt had accompanied Hagenbeck's Circus to London for the winter season of 1936 to 1937 at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, and among his Herd of elephants had two (at that time rare) African specimens. He was one of the first trainers to work with the Species.

In Hagenbeck 1934

Hagenbeck 1939

In July 1943 phosporus bombs fell on Hamburg, and Hagenbecks Tierpark was more or less destroyed in 90 minutes. 400 animals lost their lifes. During the first bombs however, Hagenbeck Tierparks head elephant keeper Fritz Theisinger, took the chains of the elephants, and released them into the out enclosure.

It was obvious that the valuable elephants were at risk. Circus Hagenbeck sent Hugo Schmitt to Sweden in 1944 with the five best elephants, since Sweden was neutral, in order to save them. Hugos family stayed behind in Hamburg.

But contrary, one day was written in the Swedish newspapers, that the elephants was confiscated as spoils of war by Sweden.

Taken from the March 8, 1947 Billboard
Stockholm, Sweden, March 1

Upset by the decision of the Swedish govenment to sell the animals of the former German-owned Carl Hagenbeck Circus, a German elephant trainer turned loose the show's five bulls in Malmoe Feb. 23. The elephants charged down main street smashing windows, breaking lamposts and terrorizing citizens.
Police, after vain attempts to halt the animals, appealed to the trainer, Capt. Hugo Schmidt, to round them up. Weeping bitterly, Schmidt finally consented and regained control of his charges.
With tears streaming down his face, Schmidt said: The State is making a great mistake in selling them. They have been trained together and love each other. If they are parted they will die.

Mr Hagenbeck contacted Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in U.S.A. and offered the elephants. Mr Ringling came personally to Sweden and purchased the elephants, on condition that Hugo Schmitt came with them as trainer, and managed to arrange a Visa for him, so he could go with the elephants to USA.

Hugo Schmitt went with the elephants to U.S.A. and the five elephants Icky, Karnaudi, Minjak (captive-born), Mutu and Sabu arrived at Ringlings in 20 June 1947. Now Hugo Schmitt was responsible for Ringlings previous 38 elephants, plus the 5 ones he brought from Sweden.

Together with Hugo and the elephants, came also Lulu Gautier as Schmitts assistant.

Hugo  Schmitt
Mr. Schmitt joined the Ringling Show with his five German elephants 6/20/47 in Pittsburgh. This young African (Abilee) was delivered six days later in New Brunswick, NJ. to be added to his act. This picture of Hugo with "Minyak" and "Abilee" taken July 27 in Detroit while unloading. In early August, after a stay of about 6 weeks, Hugo and eight elephants were shipped to Sarasota to assemble the 1948 center ring act. For some Unknown reason a young Adult African elephant "Sudan" (the last of the 1936 "Pygmies") was included rather than "Abilee".

Records about Hugo Schmitt from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at
Hugo  Schmitt
These are the 5 German elephants brought over by Hugo Schmitt the previous year, "Icky". "Sabu", "Mudu", "Minyak" and "Kernaudi".
The African "Emily" was also added to the Herd in 1947 on June 26 at New Brunswick, NJ, six days after Hugo and his elephants had arrived in Pittsburgh from Sweden.

William "Buckles" Woodcock

Records about Hugo Schmitt from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at
Hugo Schmitt introduced the first one foot stand in America that was presented in the act be brought from Europe in 1948.
William "Buckles" Woodcock

The rest of the Schmitt family stayed behind in Hamburg until 1948 when they got visas to go to Sweden, where they stayed in Malmö. Finally, in the end of 1950, Hugos wife Jenny, and their two sons Manfred and Hugh went with the ocean liner "Stockholm", departing from Gothenburg, to New York and America.

Hugo  Schmitt
Hugo Schmitt (center) and assistants, Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 4, 1949.

Hugo Schmitt worked for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1947 to 1971, but also on other shows like Mills Bros. Circus 1950-1953, and 1956 when he was with Leonard Bros. Circus.

1954-1955: Hugo Schmitt was back on RBBB.

Hugo  SchmittSchmitt unloading elephants from the train.

Hugo  SchmittSchmitt as chief elephant trainer on RBBB in 1955.

Records about Hugo Schmitt from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at
...there were 51 elephants with the circus in 1955. That the elephants were under the direction of Smokey Jones with assistance from Hugo Schmitt. Captain Schmitt was in charge of the "difficult" elephants. He was also listed as chief trainer.
Henry D. Penndorf

1956: Schmitt bought his own elephant, Targa from Catskills Farm

Records about Hugo Schmitt from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at
Hugo  SchmittHugo Schmitt with Leonard Bros. (Hard Times Leonard) in 1956 seen with his son Roman and the elephant acquired from Catskill Game Farm.
He named her "Targa" which he later told me meant "Star" in India.
She had actually been imported by Louis Goebel in 1953 and was included with Besalou Elephants but MacDonald passed on her because she was very tiny and being hand fed.
William "Buckles" Woodcock

Records about Hugo Schmitt from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at
Mac Macdonald told me that this elephant was included in the delivery of the Besalou Elephants in 1952 but that she was so small he refused her and she wound up at Catskill Game Farm where Hugo bought her four years later. Hugo once told me that "Targa" means "star" in India
William "Buckles" Woodcock

He made a brief return to Europe in 1963 when Ringling sent a unit to tour in Britain, and was given the job of handling a Group of elephants bought from Chipperfield's Circus. Many of the elephants from this "Chipperfield"group later came to RBBB circus in 1967.

Hugo  Schmitt

Hugo  SchmittCapt. Hugo Schmitt and performing elephants, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Boston Garden, 1963

Hugo Schmitt is said to have performed with 55 elephants at one time in the ring at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, according to the Guinnes Book of Records.

Records about Hugo Schmitt from William "Buckles" Woodcocks Blog at
"There are two fine trainers in the U.S. today, Mac Macdonald and Hugo Schmitt. In comparison, the balance are a sorry lot. It is my opinion that Schmitt is by far the best elephant trainer ever employed by the Ringling Show."
A portion of a letter from Bill Woodcock (1/8/61) to Chappie Fox.

William "Buckles" Woodcock

Jenny Schmitt died 1999. Hugo Schmitt died in Sarasota in 1977.


Total: 4 children

  1. Hugh Schmitt. Born: 1938.
  2. Manfred Schmitt. Born: 1942. Dead: † 1996
  3. Roman Schmitt. Born: 1951-12-15. Dead: † 2001-05-00
  4. Eddie Schmitt. Born: 1956.

Reference list


Koehl, Dan, (2024). elephant trainer Hugo Schmitt in United States. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 22 June 2024 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

Selected publications

Links about Eddie Schmitt

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Categories elephant trainer | circus | Circus World (Venice) | Schmitt family | Born 1904 | Dead 1977 | People from United States

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