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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

African Elephants of Carson & Barnes Circus

The Carson and Barnes Circus, more famously known for its large herd of Asian elephants in the 1970s and 1980s, also featured numerous African elephants in their wild animal menagerie - 7 total it seems, acquired in three different groups.

Carson & Barnes Circus 1980s
Courtesy of B. Cline, Buckles Blog

The first African elephant acquired by DR Miller for his Carson & Barnes Circus was a female named Paula, arriving in 1974 per retired elephant trainer and historian Buckles Woodcock. Her addition came amidst a slew of other acquisitions of Asian elephants by the Miller family, including large import groups from the Southwicks in Massachusetts. Her original importer is unknown. Paula remained under the Carson & Barnes title for more than three decades, but was leased to a short-lived operation by Torchy Townsend under the name Fisher Bros. Circus in 1990. In this venture, she was billed as "Queen Tusk."

Paula & Kenny Ickert, 1975
Courtesy of G. Jacobson, Buckles Blog

Ruby's history is more mysterious. Buckles Woodcock lists her with Carson and Barnes from 1976 to 1982 and then to Gopher Davenport from 1983 to 1987. Veteran animal handler Mike Cecere describes Ruby's departure from the Hugo show:

Cap Logan, his son Walter, chief aide Allan and other key family members took great pride in their upbringing. Named OMI, Missey and Debbie they did a great 3act in the mid to late 70's before the changeover in CBCB ownership. With money very tight in the early 80's the new owners leased out the three act to do Shrine dates, and think OMI hd an undiagnosed medical issue and was lost. The other two were sold to DR Miller, but they didnt fit in the herd there at that time, so they and big female African RUBY WERE sold to Ford Bros. in 83. Under Elephant SUPT. Harry Locker, veteran Elephant man/show supt. Jack Gobble(he helped Louie Reed Smokey Jones and Rex Williams winter school huge herd of babies in the late 40's on Daily Bros rail show.) //Mike Cecere, Sawdust & Spangles 04/02/2012

Elephant census listings in both 1984 and 1985 list Ruby with Ford Bros. Circus, one of more than a dozen elephants of both sexes and species on display under Gopher Davenport's ownership. Several sources note that Ruby did end up returning to Carson and Barnes, noting her presence in the early 1990s. She was described as having "crossed ivory" and, on one occasion, stabbed the circus kids' soccer ball with said tusks. It is unknown from where Ruby was acquired or what became of her.

Hugo, Kenny
Two additional African elephants have been noted by name with the Carson & Barnes Circus in a recent posting by Buckles Woodcock. The female Hugo and male Kenny are listed as two of the four Africans on the show ( along with Paula and Ruby ), among a herd of 33 male and female African and Asian elephants in 1977. No further information is available regarding these two animals.

Update 12/23/2013:
A newly found piece in a February 1976 Circus Report shares the following information -
Circus Report 02/23/1976, p. 10

If the above four Africans ( Paula, Ruby, Hugo & Kenny ) are included in DR's herd of 52 elephants, there is still one African missing identification.

Christy, Toni, Brittany
The last group of acquired African elephants to be displayed with the Carson and Barnes Circus were purchased from the Hunt Brothers at Grand Prairie, Texas, in 1983 per current show owner Barbara Byrd. Brittany was sent to the Al G.-Kelly Miller Bros. Circus in 1985, then a joint ownership in its second year of operation between DR Miller and David Rawls. She remained on Kelly Miller through the 1990s and was later sold to the Greenville, South Carolina, zoo. Toni remained on the show through the early 1990s until taking up residence at Bucky Steele's facility in Texas with other female Asian elephants there on breeding loan. She later died in November 1996 per "Elephant," The Publication of the Elephant Research Foundation. Christy remained with Carson and Barnes until 2007, when she and Paula were relocated to Charlie Sammut's private facility in California.

Toni, Christy, Mona, Dolly
Carson & Barnes Route Book 1994

Buffy, Christy, Paula - EARS, Salinas, California
Courtesy of S Johnson

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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.