Narrating the correlation of elephants as related to their import, groupings, breeding and transfers,
along with other elephant related topics.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Studbook Mysteries - Firma Ruhe I

The large animal trade company Firma Ruhe was founded in Germany by Ludwig (Louie) Ruhe in 1880. After a large increase in business following Carl Hagenbeck's construction of a new zoo, Ruhe would go on to expand with three generations of his family operating animal trading posts worldwide. Offices in London and the Ruhe Animal Farm in New York helped to supply hundreds of elephants to zoos and circuses in Europe and America.

This location is listed in the North American Regional Studbook for the Asian Elephant simply as 'L RUHE.' The address is described in Alfeld/leine, Germany. There is no differentiation between the three offices of Ruhe, possibly leading to confusion and inaccuracies regarding elephant locations.

One source names the New York location as Louis Ruhe Wild Animal Farm in Woodside, Long Island.

Mary and Mona
There are several lapses of information in the North American Regional Studbook regarding Mary and Mona, but it is apparent the pair of female Asian elephants resided together from birth in the early 1940s until their deaths in 1975.

Born in Sri Lanka between 1941-1942, Mary and Mona arrived together to the Detroit Zoo in July 1947. They resided at the zoo in Michigan for an unknown period of time before the Studbook states they were transferred to the animal trade company Firma Ruhe in Germany. However, the company operated two local offices, one in London and a second in New York, where the animals may have been transported as opposed to overseas.

In October 1974, 27 years after arriving in Detroit, the pair of elephants arrived again at a location in Michigan - King Animaland Park in Richmond. This park, operated by circus owner Walt King, covered 40 acres and held animals and amusements in springtime that King leased out to shows for the fall and winter. The Studbook states Mary and Mona resided at the park located north of Detroit until their deaths the following year, approximately seven months later.

Mary and Mona at the Detroit Zoo - Zoo Guide 1940s
Photo Courtesy of

A female Asian elephant born in Burma in 1938, Penny was imported to the Fort Worth Zoo in August 1940. For an unknown period of time, the animal resided at the zoo in Texas until the North American Regional Studbook for the Asian Elephant states she was transferred to Firma Ruhe. The documentation never gives an arrival back to Fort Worth, but lists the 23 year old elephant’s death at her premier institution in August 1961.

According to a news article published in 2009 commemorating the Fort Worth Zoo’s 100 year anniversary, Penny was purchased as a second elephant through money collected as donations from zoo visitors.

Mary, Asian Female, SB 577
1941 - Birth, Sri Lanka
24 Jul 1947 - Detroit Zoo (Belle Isle), Belle Isle, Michigan
??? - L RUHE
22 Oct 1974 - King Animaland Park, Richmond, Michigan
~Apr 1975 - Death, King Animaland Park, Richmond, Michigan

Mona, Asian Female, SB 578
1941 - Birth, Sri Lanka
24 Jul 1947 - Detroit Zoo (Belle Isle), Belle Isle, Michigan
??? - L RUHE
22 Oct 1974 - King Animaland Park, Richmond, Michigan
~Apr 1975 - Death, King Animaland Park, Richmond, Michigan

Penny, Asian Female, SB 574
~Apr 1938 - Birth, Burma
14 Aug 1940 - Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas
??? - L RUHE
12 Aug 1961 - Death, Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas

For Additional Information
>> Firma Ruhe (Tierhandelsfirma Ruhe) at

>> "The Animals and Their Trainers,"

>> "Bring 'Em Back Alive,", 03/25/1946

>> "King's Animaland Park," Circus Report,, 02/23/1976

>> "Fort Worth Zoo celebrates 100 years of wild history,", 08/10/2009

>> "Elephants of the Detroit Zoo" at ZooChat

>> "Elephants of King Animaland Park" at ZooChat

>> "Elephants of the Fort Worth Zoo" at ZooChat

UPDATED 04/18/2011, "Studbook Mysteries - Belle Isle Zoo" at ShowMe Elephants


  1. From Wayne Jackson:

    G’day Ryan,

    Besides Ruhe’s main office in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, they had a “Baby Zoo” north of Hamburg (Tessa from Toronto was there), they used to use Hannover Zoo as a showcase for all the animals they had for sale. In the U.S., they used the Catskill Game Farm as a holding facility and were related to the Shultz family who owed the place. The Toronto Zoo purchased a lot of animals from Ruhe back when it was being built, including Polar bears and American reptiles from Germany. All the Toronto Elephants came through Ruhe and one of the brothers had a place in S.W. Africa. Besides the 1.7 Africans that arrived, they ended up cancelling the extra three African bulls as well as plans for the Asian elephant exhibit.

    I met Walt King years ago and have an 8x10 of him and three punks.

    Happy Days


  2. This Ruhe baby zoo north of Hamburg is new for me, Wayne, do you have more info on that location?

  3. I see now after some googleing, that its Wingst, I didnt know that Ruhe was founder of that place, at it is located at

  4. I have found further evidence of the Ruhe location in New York, discovered in the 1942 Elephant Census published in "Hobbies - The Magazine for Collectors." Under the category "Dealers, Animal Farms, Private Owners" is listed:

    RUHE, LOUIS, New York, N.Y.-Honey, Lady. (2).

    In addition, further information is found for Penny. She is listed in the same 1942 census in Fort Worth, Texas, at Forest Park, one of two female Asian elephants with companion Queen Tut.

  5. I have written to Wingst, and unfortunately they have no archive with previous elephants during the ownership of Firma Ruhe.


I eagerly anticipate associating with new individuals with an interest or history in elephants, elephant history and elephant record keeping. If you have further information regarding the animals or locations questioned in the article, please leave a comment or message me in an effort to complete their records for elephant historians.