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Poor Don Pedro!

13 May 2010 by Lisa

Today we are looking back to 15 May 1898 in our scouring of the World Museum‘s archives for our 150th anniversary blog series. Unfortunately it is a sad tale involving an elephant called Don Pedro…


When Barnum and Bailey Circus was in Liverpool between 2 and 21 May 1898, James Bailey decided that Don Pedro, a male Indian elephant, must be ‘euthanised’ because he was aggressive.  The director of the Liverpool Museum attended the killing on 15 May.  The corpse of Don Pedro was transported to the museum where he remained on show until 1941 when the museum was bombed and Don Pedro’s body was destroyed. 

The Liverpool Echo told the story:

‘Don, the second largest elephant of the Barnum and Bailey herd and a beautiful ‘tusker’, was quietly put to death in the menagerie pavilion of the bug show at Newsham Park yesterday morning…

When the hour fixed for the execution arrived, everything was in readiness, with Secretary Burnham present to represent the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Professor Forbes, of the Liverpool Museum, to receive the body on behalf of the Corporation, Mr Bailey having refused an offer of £50 for it, in order that he might make a present of it to the Museum of Natural History, as he had previously done with the kangaroo that died on the grounds…

…a long manila rope was wound three times about Don’s neck, and one end made fast to a couple of stakes firmly driven into the ground.  The other end was fastened in a loop, into which was hooked a six strand pulley tackle.  The other end of the pulley was fastened to couple of stakes, and the free end was entrusted to the hands of ninety strong and sturdy canvasmen.  At half-past eight o’clock the command was given to ‘take up the slack’.  As the cords began to draw taut the order was given; ‘Now then, men, walk away with it’…Don’s body was taken from under the canvas and loaded upon a low car that had been brought by Dr Forbes to receive it, and then started in tow of a traction engine for the Museum…Professor Forbes said of the execution …’It was perfect,’ he said, ‘and so quickly accomplished that the beast did not suffer at all.’’


Poor Don Pedro!!

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