A CIRCUS CAMEL COMES TO TOWN!

In my bio I mentioned that I’ve been working on archiving the history of John Ball Park.  I’ve rediscovered some interesting stories about both the park and the zoo.  Or maybe I should say that I’m frequently saying ‘I didn’t know that’.  For instance the flat land along Valley was some of the last land added to the park and while negotiations were ongoing for its purchase the area was used as the city’s circus grounds.  It was in this area that the park saw its first camels, buffalos and elephants.  I found that the Miller Bros. Ranch 101 and the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shows were both there, as were the Ringling Bros. and Barnum’s circuses (before they combined). (I was so excited when I found this information as my brother is a professional clown who graduated from the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Clown College.) They only used this area for a few years before the circus grounds were moved to another part of town.

 It was from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show that the zoo received one of its first camels.  The show had an old male camel that was footsore and lame.  The show offered to give the camel to the city, and Parks Supt. Goebels basically figure the city had nothing to lose.   If they could nurse the beast back to health he’d have been a great addition to the zoo and if not they weren’t out anything. This camel was at the zoo from July, 1910 till March, 1911.  His health never did improve much, but in the spring he starts to decline again so Mr. Goebels wrote to Buffalo Bill’s Show management to request to “send the animal to his long rest” and permission was granted. I haven’t found what kind of camel he was nor can I figure out exactly where in the park his ‘exhibit’ was. At this time.  But I’m still looking so I might still find out more.      

About Andrea Perry

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Andrea recently retired from a 37 year carreer at John Ball Zoo (if you count her time as a volunteer).   She has worked in almost every area of the Zoo, but prefers large mammals.  

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Comments

#1 melissa said:

Hey Andy, I thought your entry was really interesting! I did a quick search online and I think I found the camel you are talking about (turns out it was a Bactrian camel). What is even better is that I think a GR museum might have preserved it! hope it helps and is the one you are talking about! page 60, 2nd column, 3rd full paragraph: http://books.google.com/books?id=xmTQAAAAMAAJ&pg=RA2-PA60&lpg=RA2-PA60&dq=Buffalo+Bill%E2%80%99s+Wild+West+Show+grand+rapids+mi+camel&source=bl&ots=HY-uMunsh-&sig=fU_VkUkvvl2E-GTbuEpkn_toYBQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yLuwUcbzJMazrgHD2IBo&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false


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