Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Elephant No. 96: Dead Elephant Beer

My sister came across this in a local liquor store a couple of months back, and bought it for me. I'm not much of a beer drinker, so she drank the beer (which she apparently didn't care for), then passed the can along to me.

When she first told me about it, and that it was made by the Railway City Brewing Company in in St. Thomas, Ontario, I figured right away that it was probably named for Jumbo, the famous elephant who died there. And I was right.

The back of the can reads:
Here's to Jumbo, world's largest elephant, friend and prized attraction of P.T. Barnum's traveling circus. It was 1885 here in St. Thomas where he met his early demise in a tragic railway accident that'll be forever remembered in the annals of beer and Canadian history. In his honour we've crafted this full bodied ale. Live Life Large. He'd have wanted it that way. And for you to drink responsibly.
 Along with this: A Jumbo legend with an unforgettable taste!

Okey dokey, then.

I'm not so sure that Jumbo will be forever remembered in the annals of beer, unless this particular brew becomes a massive hit, but his story is indeed famous. The account below is a shortened version of elephant lore I used in my original Elephant a Day blog.

Born in 1861 in Mali, West Africa, Jumbo was first imported to a small Paris zoo. In 1865, he was transferred to the London Zoo, where he became a popular attraction. It was here that he was also given his name, which is a variation on either the Swahili word jumbe, which means "chief" or jambo, which means "hello".

In 1882, Jumbo was sold to the Barnum & Bailey Circus for the then-exorbitant sum of $10,000. When P.T. Barnum first offered to buy the elephant, 100,000 British schoolchildren wrote to Queen Victoria, begging her to keep Jumbo in Britain.


Jumbo was indeed a very big elephant. By the time of his death, he was claimed to measure four metres (13.1 feet) in height, and weighed 5.9 tonnes (13,000 pounds). During his lifetime, his size would make his name synonymous with anything large—a trend that continues to this day.

Jumbo's arrival in America.

Sadly, Jumbo died in September 1885, when he was accidentally hit and wounded by a locomotive in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. It was suggested that he had died saving the younger circus elephant, Tom Thumb—although not all witnesses agreed. Peculiarly, Jumbo's stomach was found to contain numerous metallic objects, including coins, keys and metal rivets.

Following his death, Jumbo's hide was stuffed and travelled with the Barnum & Bailey circus for several years. It was later donated to Tufts University in Massachusetts, where it was displayed until it was destroyed by fire in 1975. His heart was sold to Cornell University, and his skeleton was donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Elephants are known to love alcoholic drinks. It is probably the sugar that attracts them, and they have been known to wreak havoc if prevented from bellying up to the bar. They can also be rather belligerent drunks.

In November 2012, the Times of India reported on the destruction caused by a herd of 50 inebriated elephants. After drinking some 500 litres (100 Imperial gallons) of Mahua liquor from a shop in rural Dumurkota, India, they ransacked adjoining huts looking for more of the tasty beverage.

Drawn out of the forest by the smell of the liquor, they destroyed the shop, several homes and crops before villagers were able to drive them off. Forestry officials finally coaxed them across a nearby river.

According to police spokesman, Asish Samanat, because the herd lives in close proximity to people, they recognized the smell of the drink. He described the rowdy elephants as being similar to drunk humans, in that they were "aggressive and unreasonable, but also "much, much bigger." He also noted that they'd "have one heck of a hangover."

Asian elephants at a salt link in India.
Photo: Manoj Shah—Riser/Getty Images

To Support Elephant Welfare

No comments:

Post a Comment