Jumbo Day is observed on April 9 every year. This day celebrates the life of Jumbo the Elephant, also known as Jumbo the Circus Elephant, who was a 19th-Century male African bush elephant originally from Sudan. He was transferred from Africa to Jardin des Plantes, a French zoo in Paris then he was transferred to the London Zoo in England. It was here that an American businessman and showman bought him and brought him to the U.S. Sadly, Jumbo died on September 15, 1885. The giant elephant’s name spawned the common word ‘jumbo,’ and left its mark on popular culture.
History of Jumbo Day
Jumbo the Elephant was born in Sudan on December 25, 1860. Poaching hunters killed his mother when he was just an infant. Sudanese elephant hunter Taher Sheriff and German big-game hunter Johann Schmidt captured Jumbo and sold him to Lorenzo Casanova, an Italian animal dealer, and explorer, who then transported the animals he had purchased from Sudan to Suez, and then across the Mediterranean Sea to Trieste, in Italy. Gottlieb Christian Kreutzberg’s “Menagerie Kreutzberg”, a 19th-Century traveling animal show in Germany, bought Casanova’s collection of animals.
Thereafter, Jumbo was exported to the zoo Jardin des Plantes in France, Paris. And again, he was transferred to the London Zoo on June 26. Jumbo became a crowd favorite because of his size, and children would ride on his back, including those of Queen Victoria. While in London, he was under the watch of Matthew Scott (who released an 1885 autobiography chronicling his life with Jumbo). Jumbo broke both his tusks, and even after they grew, he ground them down against the stonework of his enclosure. In 1882, the superintendent of the London zoo, Abraham Bartlett, made headlines and sparked widespread controversy when the public caught a whiff of his proposed decision to sell Jumbo to an American businessman and showman for £2,000 (U.S. $10,000).
According to Bartlett, his decision was based on Jumbo’s increasing aggression and potential to wreak public havoc. Jumbo’s sale caused a widespread uproar among Londoners since it was an enormous loss for the British empire. The sale had such an impact that 100,000 pupils wrote to Queen Victoria pleading with her not to sell Jumbo. However, this proved ineffective and Jumbo soon left London with his new owner, P.T. Barnum, an American entertainer and owner of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. On September 15, 1885, Jumbo passed away. His estimated shoulder height was 127 inches at the time of his death, although Barnum claimed it to be about 157 inches.
Jumbo Day timeline
Phineas T. Barnum, who purchased Jumbo from the London Zoo, is born.
Jumbo the Elephant is born on Christmas Day in Sudan.
Barnum buys Jumbo the Elephant from the London Zoo and takes him to the U.S. for an exhibition.
American film director Billy Rose releases a musical based on Jumbo the Elephant, titled “Jumbo.”
Jumbo Day FAQs
What is Jumbo Day?
Jumbo Day is an American holiday celebrated to honor the memory of the circus animal, Jumbo the Elephant.
When is Jumbo Day?
Jumbo Day is celebrated on April 9 every year.
How did Jumbo the Elephant die?
In 1885, a freight train in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada knocked Jumbo down. He died on the tracks.
Jumbo Day Activities
Watch a documentary on Jumbo
Since you haven’t lived through the time of Jumbo the Elephant, watching a documentary about him would be a good way to celebrate the day. Ask your family and friends to join in and learn about Jumbo’s life.
Visit the Jumbo the Elephant monument
There’s a solid statue of Jumbo the Elephant made of concrete and reinforced steel in the city of St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Jumbo Day is the perfect day to visit the monument and pay your respects to Jumbo.
Share on social media
Don’t forget to share how you celebrate Jumbo Day on social media using the #JumboDay hashtag. Tag your friends and educate your followers on the life of Jumbo the Elephant.
5 Facts About Jumbo The Elephant
First celebrity animal in the world
Jumbo was the first animal to become an international celebrity, with everyone wanting a piece of him (figuratively).
First African animal to reach modern Europe
Jumbo was the first African animal to reach modern Europe, as he had been traded there very early in life.
Jumbo usually threw tantrums
Jumbo threw tantrums frequently and it was later discovered that glands forming in his brain and his erupting molars were likely to blame.
Largest animal in captivity
From 1882, the year P.T. Barnum bought him, Jumbo the Elephant was the largest animal living in captivity.
Close bond with his keeper
Jumbo the Elephant had a strong bond with his keeper, Matthew Scott, and the bond was reciprocal, as Scott recounted his time with Jumbo in an autobiography published in 1885.
Why We Love Jumbo Day
It’s a reason to watch the animal channel
Let's face it: thinking of Jumbo the Elephant makes you want to watch the animal channel. This is a great learning opportunity, especially for kids.
It’s a reflection of cultural history
While circuses are no longer popular, Jumbo Day is a remembrance of a time past. We get a glimpse at the era when the Western culture centered on traveling circuses.
Jumbo was a national treasure
Jumbo is such an important figure in modern history that his impact cannot be overstated. He was a national and a worldwide treasure.
Jumbo Day dates