Sunday, May 8, 2011

A disastrous circus act. Polar Bear vs Boar Hound

Polar Bear Alaska: Sourced Wikipedia

In 1912 Wirth's Circus were performing in Melbourne. During their polar bear act they had included a boar hound. It would be natural that an adult polar bear would see a dog as its prey. After this incident the act that included dogs was discontinued.



A thrilling fight took place between a Polar bear and a powerful boar hound in full view of the spectators at Wirth's Circus.

The incident occurred during the performance by the Polar bears, one of which, without warning, rushed the boar-hound while it was seated on a stool awaiting its turn in the proceedings. The bear viciously hugged the dog, which, in turn, showed fight. Herr Schmidt, the trainer, at once took in the situation, and began beating the bear across the nose, while many attendants. prodded both bear and dog, and in every way attempted to separate them.

Whenever the bear relaxed its grip, the boar-hound returned to the attack, but it was; always underneath, and in evident danger of being killed. After the conflict had lasted 10 minutes, and both animals had received a violent beating, a separation was effected, and the bear went to went to its corner, ‘feeling and looking very sick’ and blood-bespattered, while the boarhound, which will not again be introduced into the performance during the remainder of the season, looked very little, the worse after the trouble. The other bears in the cage looked on during the attack, and not one stirred from its position.

- Grey River Argus (N.Z) 23 November 1912

Friday, May 6, 2011

List of Wirth's Circus Elephants - to date

This is the list of names I have compiled to date of the elephants owned by Wirth's Circus from during my research. This is a rough draft and will need reviewing and updating.

Died 30 April 1956 the first mention of this elephant was from an interview with Doris Wirth in 1927. She was put down at Wirth's property by a veterinarian at around 65 years of age.

Annie died of poisoning at Mt Gambier in October 1929 (Imported 1923 from Burma)

Betty - died of Tutu Poisoning near Hamilton in New Zealand 1950

Butcha Imported as a calf in 1923 by Wirth's Circus. His dam was 'Mary'. No known death date.

Cardie (Cardigan)
Wirths had obtained Cardie around circa 1902 (yet to confirm this year). He had numerous incidences of attacking his keepers. In 1923 during a performance in Queensland Cardie attacked his trainer. He was subsequently shot in July 1923.






Ghuni Sah (Ghunah Sah)
This elephant was obtained by Wirths around 1898/1900 and was billed as 'The Bucking Elephant'. She was purchased in Rangoon from a Scottish Timber Merchant (from interview with Phillip Wirth). Her death date is unknown. She possibly died from eating superphosphate when Wirth's were touring Western Australia.



Reported as attacking his trainer during a performance in the USA in 1961. His age was stated as being 40 years old.

Jo-Dee The First
Obtained in 1949 at aged 10 months. This elephant died as a result of split bones in the hind legs due to a lack of calcium. She was being cared for in New Zealand at the time. She died on 16 July 1950

Jo-Dee The Second
Arrived in 1950. Imported from Thailand aged three years old.

Jumbo The First
Wirth's claimed this elephant was the first born in Australia. Possibly they obtained this animal from Moore Park around 1905. There is a report in the Evening Post (NZ) from 1923 of a 'Jumbo' being shot on 14 May 1923. It is mentioned as being 'Taronga Park's Big Show Elephant'. This death date matches the elephant Dundry (Dundray) which is recorded also as being shot on the same date at the same facility.

Jumbo The Second
Arrived from Burma in 1923

Formerly owned by Fitzgerald's Circus who obtained Lizzie from Carl Hagenbeck's Zoological Circus in Vienna. The act was imported in 1897. 

Mr, Dan Fitzgerald (senior partner in the firm of Fitzgerald Bros.), of circus fame, who left Australia by the R.M.S. Orotava for the purpose of securing novel acts for Australian patrons, has been successful in his mission to Vienna.

Among the novelties be has already secured is Hagenbach's performing troupe, consisting of elephants, ponies, and monkeys, Mr. Fitzgerald has also purchased a wonderful lion, and performing dogs, and has engaged a famous lion-tamer.

He visits other continental cities, also England and America, in his quest for further novelties.
The Mercury 24 July 1897

Lizzie was trained to ride a tricycle around a purpose built track with a lion named 'Prince' riding on her back. Wirth's Circus had featured Lizzie as part of their performances prior to 1906. It seems they obtained her after this and used this act for some time. Lizzie fell ill in 1920 before dying on 24 October 1920 the cause not determined. She was sold to a soap factory to be rendered down for her fat.

 Performing Elephant Dies
' Lizzie, ' one of the elephants at Wirth Bros' circus, died on Sunday night after an illness of several months is the fourth elephant which the circus has lost during the present tour Lizzie was a great worker and was a popular performer in the ring. The carcase has been removed to a soap manufactory to be boiled down.
The Argus 26 October 1920

Imported from Burma in 1923 as part of a large consignment of elephants. Mary was around 35 years old. She was the dam of the 12 month old elephant 'Butcha'
Died around 1946???
Princess Alice (Formerly 'Alice' )
Toby The First

Toby was obtained by Moore Park from W.H Hartley in 1887. Hartley had used her as a performing elephant.

The society has acquired by purchase Mr. W. H. Hartley's performing female elephant " Toby," which has already become a general favourite with the public.

- Sydney Morning Herald 1 October 1887

Toby proved to be of difficult temperament and was sold to Wirth's Circus around 1904. She had several escapes during the time they owned her. In 1915 Toby became ill and died

A familiar figure of Wirth Bros Ltd's circus ring has disappeared, Toby, the oldest and cleverest elephant of the herd, which died yesterday morning after a two or three days illness. For years she was the principal performer in the elephant's act, and did tricks denoting intelligence almost human. She was about eighty years of age, and was worth nearly £2000 She had a remarkable memory. On one occasion during a steamer voyage an engineer "loaded" an orange with pepper and gave it to her. On a subsequent voyage the same engineer passed near her, and she grabbed him with her trunk, and only the rigging saved the man from going overboard. She died of a similar complaint to the one which caused her collapse on the bridge at Nowra a year ago. On that occasion she held up the horse traffic for about twelve hours.

- Sydney Morning Herald 30 April 1915

Toby The Second
Mentioned in an article from 1921
At the rear of the procession came Wirth's Circus in full strength, the elephant Toby leading the way with a bucket in which he collected money from the spectators.
- The Argus 29 October 1921