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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eddie Drake - Toka

Originally posted 04/13/2012
Updated 05/29/2012 with news article and image

An interesting ad in a 1977 issue of The Circus Report announces an act and elephant rides available for rent.

Circus Report, 6th year No 17, Page 8, 04/25/1977
Courtesy of

This elephant is not listed in the North American Regional Studbook for the African Elephant, nor are any elephants listed with the Drake family in the 1978 Elephant Census published in The Circus Report.

It is very interesting to note the uniqueness of the act mentioned, a leg carry of the chimp by a male African elephant.

More information is sought regarding the identity of this animal.

Originally posted 04/13/2012

Update 05/29/2012
A photograph of Dick Drake with his African elephant 'Toka' is featured in The Miami News, March 1978.
Easy as she goes
Seven-year-old Toka, an African elephant, rides a skateboard down Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, with trainer Dick Drake lending moral support. Drake intends to retire Toka as the world's undefeated the over 4,000-pound division.

The Miami News, 03/18/1978
Courtesy of

Several weeks later, the same news account was published in the Circus Report (No. 14, 04/03/1978), offering more information to the ownership of the animal.
The Circus Vargas elephant "Toka" rode a big skateboard down Hollywood Blvd., in Hollywood, Cali., last month.

As Mr. Herriott states below in Comments, Dick Drake was an assistant to Rex Williams with the Circus Vargas herd. Mr. Williams was announced to be taking the herd in November 1977 (The Circus Report, No. 46, 11/14/1977), also with information that two baby elephants were acquired from Alexandria, Virginia, bringing the herd size to 17 with a hopeful increase to 20 by 1978.

Wayne Jackson shares a picture of Dick Drake with the Vargas herd in 1977 taken by Toby Styles.

Circus Vargas, Dick Drake, 1977
Courtesy of W Jackson

Is Toka the same animal as listed in the Circus Report ad originally posted regarding chimps? If so, where did she come from and what became of this animal? A review of the Grand Circus Safari in Pendleton, Oregon, by Jack Hogben offers information as well. Published in the Circus Report, 07/03/1978, mentions "Eddie Drake with an African elephant, a chimp rode the bull for part of the act."


  1. john herriottApril 13, 2012

    I recall a Drake being involved in the contested sale of Murray Hills elephants whereby Murray took the elephants in hiding. Seems Drake had been a bull hand on Vargas.

  2. Mr. Herriott,
    Thank you for sharing. I was unaware that Vargas was where Drake began his elephant career. I assume it would have been Dick Drake. His son Eddie seems to be the one mentioned in this ad above. The story you refer to of the elephant hiding is titled "At Large: The Fugitive Odyssey of Murray Hill and His Elephants" by Gary Ross. My father gifted me a personalized signed copy from Murray for Christmas several years ago.

  3. What issue and what page is this for our records?

  4. 1977 would have been 9 years before they got the Murray Hill elephants. I also wonder how long they had this african. Eddie is mentioned in the book as doing spot dates.

  5. Bob,
    The above image was taken from Circus Report Number 17, Page 8, 04/25/1977.

    More information about the Drakes from 1977:

    "ED DRAKE, Sr., will supervise the Vargas elephant herd now that WALLY ROSS is permanently at Thousand Oaks. His son, ED DRAKE, Jr., has a very unusual mixed group of animals, seen on Polack and Circus Carol recently.." // Circus Report Number 24, Page 5, 06/13/1977:

  6. This news from CR did not know that Rex Williams would be taking charge of the herd. I believe that Drake did remain on Vargas as an asst. to Rex for a time.

  7. Thank you Mr. Herriott. Five months after Circus Report announced Mr. Drake's supervision of the Vargas herd, they announced Rex was replacing him. I posted more about that above, along with a picture of Drake on Vargas. I also found mention that the "skateboarding elephant" belonged to Vargas. Thus, I still do not know if that was the elephant of Drake's with the chimps.


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.