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
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
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?
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