Friday, July 1, 2011


This past Sunday was Ms.Chloe's birthday, which she decided to celebrate by going to the zoo. I love that her Facebook invite said she would like to "eat over priced ice cream while watching animals sleep". It's a pretty accurate description of a trip to the zoo I'd say.

Our trip to the zoo, got me wondering about Victorian zoos.
The first zoo, or zoological garden, opened in 1765 in Vienna Austria when the royal menagerie was opened to the general public for viewing.
Royal collections of exotic animals, or menageries, have existed since ancient times. Roman emperors, and medieval kings were often gifted these animals, and kept them on palace grounds for their amusement.
Parts of the Tower of London housed the royal menagerie from 1204 until the London Zoo opened in 1828. During the 1700s the menagerie was open to the public with the price of admission being either three pence, or a cat or dog to feed to the lions with (the horror).
While a menagerie existed for amusement primarily, zoos born during the age of Enlightenment, emphasized scientific study and education.

The camel house, London Zoo

One of the most famous Victorian zoos, the London Zoo opened to the general public, as a way to raise funds for the zoological society, in 1847. It housed animals such as Arabian oryx, orangutans, and the now extinct quagga (a breed of zebra) and Tasmanian tigers.

Quagga at the London Zoo

Tasmanian tigers

It was believed during the Victorian era, that tropical animals would not be able to survive English weather, so animals were kept indoors. It wasn't until 1902 when it was decided to give the animals outdoor enclosures. Strangely they seemed to fare better when given outdoor areas.

Some other notable Victorian zoos are the Paris zoo founded in 1795 from the menagerie at Versailles, Dublin zoo founded in 1831 (so Irish zoologists could study both live and dead specimens), Melbourne zoo founded in 1860 as Australia's first zoo, and Central Park zoo, the US' first zoo established
also in1860.

Painters at the Paris zoo

The zoo I enjoyed on Sunday, the Assiniboine Park zoo, in Winnipeg, was founded in 1904. So I guess it's technically Edwardian, rather than Victorian. It started with just a few animals like bison, deer and elk, and in 1908 bears were added. To this day bears have been important to the zoo's history. "Winnie" the bear who inspired AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh, was named after Winnipeg and was taken from Canada as a WW1 mascot for the troops. She then ended up in the London zoo after the war. She was originally intended to be sent back to the Assiniboine Park zoo, but became a much loved fixture in London, so remained there.

Statue of Winnie at the Assiniboine Park zoo

Photo of Winnie

Bears have been a major attraction throughout the zoo's history, and today the bear enclosure area is undergoing major renovations to expand and modernize this area.
In 1909 the zoo had 116 animals of 19 different species. As of 1998 there were 1193 animals of 271 different species.

Here's a few photos of our zoo day.

Ms. Chloe and Laura

Lions (oh my)

A free book we found by the camels

Me at the zoo

Zoos can be controversial. What are your thoughts?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. Interesting post! It depends on the zoo tbh, some actually help near extinct (sp?) species breed whereas others use them for entertainment.

    The colour in your hair is lovely btw!

  2. There may have been cruelty at some zoos of old – but animals in modern zoos seem to enjoy the good life! They’ve got teams of handlers and fundraisers who’ve dedicated themselves to ensuring the critters’ needs are met - including stimulation. I still enjoy visits to the zoo – it’s always changing. I also really enjoy Ms. Lou’s Victorian musings – you’ve got a great writing style! A cat for the price of admission – I had no idea. I suppose that was practical and appropriate for the times although it would probably meet some resistance today.

  3. Not sure how I feel about zoos... they protect and seem to harm at the same time. I am sure the animals born into captivity don't mind it as much, but still... they can't really follow any sort of natural instincts they have except to eat, sleep, and reproduce.

    Never knew about the Quagga. Fascinating animal!