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December 27—Visit the Zoo Day

If you visited the zoo prior to the twentieth century you would most likely have seen the animals behind bars in cages. But in the early 1900s Carl Hagenbeck decided he wanted to display animals in a more "natural" venue. After years of working in his family's wild animal trade business he created his "Tierpark" in Stellingen, Germany.

Carl Hagenbeck’s Tierpark - postcardAnimals were exhibited in open settings, no bars or cages, often mixed with other species seen together in the wild. Moats, separating some of the animals groups, were constructed based on measuring leaping distances of animals. Animal training and taming by the keepers at the Tierpark was encouraged to be kind and coaxing, rather than the harsher methods that were typical at the time. There’s much more to the Carl Hagenbeck ‘Tierpark’ story. But there’s no question as to his influence on modern animal exhibitions at zoos. Consider this quote:

“What is now taken for granted by almost every visitor to a zoo—moated exhibits in a landscape simulating nature; gregarious animals of mixed species kept in herds in large enclosures; and animal performances based on conditioning and sensitivity, not on brute force and intimidation—all started at Hagenbeck’s Tierpark”—Herman Reichenbach, New worlds, new animals: from menagerie to zoological park in the nineteenth century, edited by R.J. Hoage and William A. Deiss. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Polly Lasker

Carl Hagenbeck’s Tierpark - guidebookAdditional resources consulted:

A crowded ark, by Jon R. Luoma. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

Zoo: animals, people, places, by Bernard Livingston. New York: Arbor House, [1974].

Zoos without cages, by Judith E. Rinard. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, c1981.

Also in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries collections:

Carl Hagenbeck’s autobiography: Beasts and men: being Carl Hagenbeck's experiences for half a century among wild animals, an abridged translation by Hugh S.R. Elliot and A.G. Thacker; with an introduction by P. Chalmers Mitchell; with photogravure portrait of the author and ninety-nine other illustrations. London; New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1910.

The Libraries' online exhibition: Zoos: a historical perspective, by Alvin Hutchinson.


Visit the Zoo Day—Dec. 27th!

One Comment

  1. Not sure I would want to go through the lion and bear exhibitions without the bars.

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