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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Circo Hermanos Atayde

Originally posted 05/26/2011
Reposted 06/06/2012
Mr. Herriott, can you tell us who the elephants were you worked in the picture below? Were they of American origin?

The following photographs were taken in a two year time span. The first group features a three act, while the last picture includes a five act presented by Ramon Esqueda.

Circo Atayde Hnos. 1980 #3
"Safari" (from Bertram Mills), "Rosie" and "Clara" trained by Jimmy Reynolds
Courtesy of Buckles Blog

Circo Atayde Hnos. 1980 #4
Courtesy of Buckles Blog

Ramon Esqueda with Atayde Elephants 1982
"only live 3 elephant,one in zoo and two in the circus atayde"
Courtesy of Juan de la Cruz

Buckles Woodcock shares with us the names the three elephants in the 1980s pictures, including the origin of "Safari" from Bertram Mills. Juan de la Cruz informs us three of the elephants featured in the 1982 photograph are still alive - one retired to a zoo and two still performing with Atayde. The two remaining are Tommy and Safari.

"Parece son Tommy y Safari"
Courtesy of Juan de la Cruz

Another photo of an elephant performing on Atayde Hermanos

More information regarding these animals, their identification, origins and final locations is sought. In addition, more information is sought regarding Atayde's current herd of female Asian elephants.


  1. The show seems to present their animals with a very artistic elephant wardrobe. Note not only the large, colorful headpieces and bracelets, but the painted toenails as well.

    From further information gather via Juan de la Cruz, Circo Francisco Atayde Garcia has two shows. One tours with a female Asian elephant Rene, the other with a female Asian elephant Birkeki. They formerly held the bull Ramos and celebrated the birth of calf 'Bireki' in 1991. She is still with the show. Her mother Tania died in 2008, accidentally electrocuted during a storm. Her sire Ramos was sold to the Toluca Zoo when he became unmanageable.

    Circo Atayde Vertti tours with the female Asian elephant Pamy.

    Circo Atayde Hermanos (featured in the article above) tours with two female Asian elephants, Safari and Tania. This Tania differs than the Tania killed in 2008 on a different Atayde show, as stated above.

  2. When Atayde brought me down to Mex. for training and routining their horses, camels and elephants I flew down and joined the show enroute in Tampico. They had six female asian in the show, namely Safari [Betram Mills],Tommy, Sammy[from Al Kayda Calif. Circus], Dolly, Rosie Clara[Had been imported punks trained by American Jimmy Reynolds a few years back]. They did a six act presented by Alberto Atayde, but routine problems to be straightened out. They had just bought one of the Tanyas from Jenda Smaha in Vegas and she joined in a few days, so I practiced mornings on the road putting a new lead horse in eight palomino liberty act and getting a handle on the elephants. Two were nasty, Sammy and Dolly. After a few weeks they brought horses, camels,elephants to Mex. City qtrs. except Tanya and I then had a full traijing daily regimen. They had me for a few months so wanted to get alotof stuff done. In a meeting before trasferring me to qtrs Lucas and Alberto and Alfredo [brother owners made all important decisios together except oldest brother Lucas was the main godfather] said that during the holidays while in Arena Mexico they were going to continue on with a one ring tent show in Guatamala and would like me to routine four for Arena Mex. and two for Guatamala with me to present horses and elephants in big Arena Mex. show. So each morn.was elephant practice and after lunch and their siesta time was Liberty and camel training. I chose Safari [Mills] and Dolly, Rosie and Clara [reynolds] for Mexico Arena show and Tommy and Sammy for Guatamala. Young Ramon Esqueda [mother was Atayde sister, Esmeralda] was assigned to me as interpeter, driver and helper and apprenticed animal presenter. I would teach him the two elephant act and a camel act of two camels and a horse that I put togetgher. So I got things done and soon we moved into Arena Mex. and Ramon took off for Guatamala. I had four or five grooms one being the ramrod by name of Salvadore. Now Dolly had a history of running [In elec. storm if act was on she would bale out of tent and run up into elephant semi. [but on loading nights she would balk loading and I would have to use a loading chain]. On a wet lot she would not go from menagerie to big top if there were electric wires along the way and would have to be lead clear around the tent. She was a big fat hog and had pretty well established her domain and she would push and hit as well. So opening nighr inArena she along with the others made opening spec with blankets on. When going down the front track she stopped and started to climb over the guard rail into the seats. I finally got her out and in the back area after quite a time with carrots, getting around in front of her swinging her ass, etc. so in a meeting it was decided to end her career as when I left she wou. ld be back to her old tricks. I advised them that I had exhausted my reporatoire and they eliminated her in the show and soon sold her to a small tent circus and believe she was ok for whatever they could get ouit of her. So I had the three act pictured here and Ramon went on to other elephant jobs with Cardin, Carson-Barnes, etc. I left after Guadalaghara but had a great relationship with Atayde family to this day. As you can see my teaining time was well spent and pretty full, but its what I have always enjoyed doing all thru the years. Hope this is enjoyable. john herriott

  3. The elephant Safari was really a nice old elephant and had been one of the group trained-presented on Betram Mills by Gosta Kruse. I had seen them at Ilympia in London a few years before. Her only odd thing was that she laid down on the 'wrong side'. The elephant Clara very small in adult stature did a nice hind leg walk. She was a nice elphant. Found out that Rosie was a sapper but not bad.

  4. Thanks John, for e very personal comment, exciting to read.
    I think I know why one of the Bertram Mills elephants were named Safari.

    Gösta Kruses father, Theodor Kruse, was horse trainer and stable master at Trolle Rhodins Zoo Circus in Sweden, appearently, until his death on tour in Turkey in 1954.

    Trolle Rhodin hired elephants from Lorenz Hagenbecks Circus 1945-1947, and during that time Theodors son Gösta Kruse must have started to assist their trainer Hugo Schmitt (and Alex Gauthier) with the elephants, it is said that Gösta Kruse started working elephants at the age of 18, and he was born 1927, so this seems to fit, with the arriving group of elephants in 1945.

    Hugo Schmitt and the five elephants Icky, Karnaudi, Minjak (captive-born), Mutu and Sabu, arrived at Ringlings in 20 June 1947.

    But it seems that two elephants stayed in Sweden, Safari and Birka, and Gösta Kruse showed them in the ring of Trolle Rhodins Zoo-Circus, until 1956, when they were sold to Dresden Zoo in Germany.

    Gösta Kruse seems to have left Sweden 1951, when he started at Bertram Mills (and later joined Circus Pinder in France), but I guess the years touring with "his first elephants" Birka and Safari left a strong memory, why I guess he named one of the elephants, arriving 1961 or 62, to Bertram Mills from Sri Lanka, to Safari.

    But Im still not sure if the first Safari and Birka, before being bought by Trolle Rodin, belonged to Hagenbeck, but the indication for this is strong. There has been several Birkas at Hagenbecks also, and when I was in Hagenbecks Tierpark for training by Karl Kock in 1985, there was still an old lead elephant with the name Birka, which Kock had worked in the ring with Circus Hagenbecks in the fifties. If this is so, it means that not all elephants went to Ringling, and I wonder if anyone knows the total numbers of Hagenbecks elephants arriving in Sweden 1945.

    Yesterday I ordered Trolle Rhodins newly released book, why I hope to confirm this theory within some weeks.

  5. I recently heard that "Rene" a female Asian from Atayde-Garcia Circus died recently due to TB, and that she had a calf some 20 years ago.


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.