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

Thursday, May 31, 2012


A series of photographs taken at the Los Angeles Zoo in California raised question to the identity of the elephant and its handler. Recent commentary by Darryl inform the trainer is Gary Jacobson, current elephant trainer for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' Center for Elephant Conservation, with his former male Asian elephant Petely.

Los Angeles Zoo, c. 1980s
Courtesy of J Romo

The North American Regional Studbook for the Asian elephant lists the following records for 'Petely.' The 'House Name Index" also lists alternate names 'Dino' and 'Pasha.'

North American Regional Studbook for the Asian Elephant, 2010

The young male Asian elephant 'Dino' is confirmed at the studbook's first two location listings, though the two should be merged as one location. Generational circus performer Remo Cristiani owned and presented "Little Dino" as the "smallest performing male baby elephant in North America" on the Garden Brothers' Circus in July 1973. The animal was described at three foot tall and only 450 pounds.

The size measurements given regarding the young animal discredit any thoughts that Cristiani's Dino might be the animal of the same name born in 1963 to the Portland Zoo's highly successful Asian elephant breeding program. The latter is described in the Studbook born to Thonglaw and Pet in September 1963, sold to Howard Johnson of Perris, California, at an unknown date and last residing at the zoo in Spokane, Washington. His death date at the facility is estimated 1977.

Cristiani's elephant is found again in a January 1977 Florida news article. Exhibited at the World of Mirth Show in St. Petersberg, seven year old Dino is the only male of the five elephant herd - 21 year old Sheba, 7 year olds Shuainze and Dino and 2 year olds Soma and Romini.

Courtesy of the Schenectady Gazzette

Months following discussion of Dino's placement in the Cristiani herd, the Brookfield Zoo of Chicago, Illinois, announced in May 1977 they had purchased a circus elephant named Dino from an unspecified location.

The Circus Report 6th year Number 21, 05/23/1977

News articles are found the following year discussing eye surgery for the renamed 'Pasha.' The 8 year old male underwent the first surgery of its kind to remove a cataract from his right eye. The 4,500 pound animal was the only male in the zoo's herd of four elephants.

"1978 Press Photo Elephant Eye Surgery Brookfield Zoo Chicago"
Courtesy of Historic Images,

"1978 Elephant At Brookfield Zoo Pasha Eats Wire"
Courtesy of

It seems, following studbook records, Chicago returned their elephant 'Pasha' to the circus business in summer 1979, two years after his arrival. Elephant trainer Rex Williams of Circus Vargas received the animal and renamed him "Petely." The October 20, 1980 issue of the Circus Report features an ad on page 29 for elephants Gardner, Petely and Tusko, according to an index record. The content of this ad is unknown. Wade Burck mentions Petely's role in the Vargas herd among many males:
Gypsy who I have talked about in the past, did a wonderful job of schooling and maintaining order over he, Maclain, Tusko, Reed, Petely and Col. I learned more about male elephants in my time around Rex Williams then any where else in my life. //Wade Burck

In 1982, Petely was sold to Gary Jacobson and Frank Murray. The studbook states the animal importer and elephant handler Murray Hill of Fordland, Missouri, took Petely for a several year period in the mid-1980s, sending the male Asian to the Audubon Zoo in Louisiana during the winter of 1985. This is an error, confusing Murray Hill with Frank Murray, the lattter who worked at and had a ride contract with the New Orleans zoo.

Gary Jacobson has stated he purchased the elephant from Circus Vargas elephant trainer Rex Williams. Some sources states Gary and Petely spent time at the zoo in Melbourne, Florida, between jobs and sometimes worked in a three ring display with Ben Williams. Gary and Petely were identified in pictures at the Los Angeles Zoo elephant ride in the 1980s in a previous ShowMe Elephants post.

Petely was again retired from traveling and performing, coming to rest at residence in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' elephant retirement center in Williston, Florida, managed by Ted Svertesky. Petely's contribution to the captive North American Asian elephant population was discussed in February 2011 at ShowMe Elephants.
The Births
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus celebrated the birth of two Asian elephants within less than a two week period in the winter of 1992-1993. Juliette, named after Ringling owner Kenneth Feld's daughter, was born at Ringling's elephant breeding compound in Williston, Florida, on December 30, 1992. Eleven days later, Romeo was born, a namesake of the Shakespearean couple.

Both Romeo and Juliette were sired by Gary Jacobson's bull Petely. The half-siblings were the only offspring of the 26 year old bull before his death in 1994. Juliette was born to first time mother, 14 year old Icky II. Icky II has since given birth to three more female calves. Romeo was born to first time mother, 17 year old Alana. Alana has since given birth to four more calves, all still living and the most recent born in April 2010.

Luke, Romeo and Juliette, Williston, Florida, 1994
Courtesy of All About Elephants on Facebook

For Additional Information:
>> "Garden Bros. Circus Due in Armory at End of July," Schenectady Gazette, 07/07/1973
>> "The Circus Report Index of Articles, 1976 to 1979,"
>> "Remo Cristiani Brings 8-ton 'family' to work at Carnival," St. Petersburg Times, 01/26/1977
>> "Miscellaneous," The Circus Report, 05/23/1977
>> "Eye Doctor Removes a Cataract From Elephant," The Lewiston Evening Journal, 02/02/1978
>> "For Ryan," Circus No-Spin Zone, 08/18/2008
>> "Romeo and Juliette," ShowMe Elephants, 02/14/2011

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.