10 Common Names And Scientific Names Of Plants And Animals Elephants, Hippos and Bears, Oh My!

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Elephants, Hippos and Bears, Oh My!

The Peru Circus Winter Quarters was established by Ben Wallace in 1892. The elephants and bears were all moved into the buildings on this property that year. For the next 50 years, these newer buildings, buildings and properties would house up to 40 elephants, polar bears, brown bears, Himalayan bears and Nile hippos. This was the home of the largest Circus Corporation in America, where five large circuses were repaired, contracted and run around America every year.

The elephants walked from their winter quarters three miles outside the city in central Peru every day for a healthy little exercise trip. Polar bears were playing in a pool of water. The colder the better. The hippos had their own pool inside the elephant barn where they could soak at their leisure. The elephants enjoyed a leisurely swim in the adjacent Mississinewa River, as the weather would permit.

The elephant barn was also home to all the animals on display that didn’t do what they were supposed to be caged for. The west wing of the barn had a long row of cages to house many non-performing animals.

The center of the barn remained open as a training area for working with the elephants. This also gave the trainers a place to provide the pedicures the elephants needed to keep their feet in good condition, as well as being able to physically tend to any ailments that might develop.

The circus menagerie was a traveling zoo. People across America had very little opportunity to see an animal other than on their farm. As the circus traveled from town to town and then moved on rails, more and more animals were transported to amaze the local people with wonders from around the world.

While many people may have seen an ordinary black bear, seeing a white polar bear standing almost eleven feet tall on its hind legs was almost impossible to believe. Polar bears are naturally climbing on things, whether it’s an ice floe, a fallen tree, or a foreign object. The circus used all these features when they pushed a carousel full of other bears, climbed and slid down a slide, or sat on their pedestal.

Many circus performances included multiple presentations of bears. Maybe it was a cage full of polar bears, or a ring full of brown bears. Some acts even featured a combination of bears using polar bears, European brown bears, Himalayan bears, Syrian bears and local black bears.

Hippopotamus can be a vicious animal to be found around and then some are very vulnerable. Weighing nearly a ton when fully grown, they must be in water to keep their skin in a supple condition. They can stay under water with only their eyes, but they are not very good swimmers. For a very large animal, they are very fast in their movements. Running a short distance, they can reach a speed of nearly 19 miles per hour. Being a herbivore or plant eater, the hippopotamus can grow a foot-long canine tooth.

Being the third largest mammal on the face of the earth, it was quite attractive to the American people who were only familiar with a wild pig or cow.

There are two different types of elephants, the Asian elephant and the African elephant. The Asian elephant has always been the most used elephant in circuses and zoos. Asian or Indian elephants are easily distinguished by their smaller ears. African elephants are divided into two subspecies – Forest, or technically speaking, Loxodonta Africana Cyclotis and Savanna, or Loxodonta Africana. The Asian is known by its scientific name Elephas Maximus.

The elephant is only one of three hundred and fifty-two species of proboscis. In other words, they have a long nose or trunk. The trunk of the elephant contains forty thousand tendons and muscles. This allows the elephant to literally pick up a coin. They feed themselves, water themselves, spray themselves, throw dirt and hay on their backs to keep away tickling flies, can lift a person with their trunk or push and pull them as needed.

The elephant has a set of teeth that mashes forage into digestible food. Living 60 to 80 years in captivity, without worrying about comfort, food or shelter, the elephant will gain six sets of teeth in their lifetime. Using their trunk to pull out a loose tooth, they pass many of them through their intestines, when found, these teeth are about the size of a human hand.

Most distinctive on any elephant are the tusks. A male’s tufts are always larger than a female’s. Males can reach three and four feet of pure ivory. This becomes another tool for the elephant to move things around and can also become a weapon as well. African elephants tend to herd more easily than Asian elephants, with the forest elephant’s herd almost always straight down. The tusk is actually another elephant tusk.

The leg is the main part of any elephant. Growing from twelve to fourteen inches in an adult elephant, the elephant is actually walking on its toes. These are the white nails we see. There is a large pad behind the toes that supports the massive weight of an elephant. This acts much like a rubber pad of a tennis shoe. Regardless of weight, an elephant can be graceful enough to walk without making a sound or even leaving a footprint.

Almost 100 years later, the Circus Hall of Fame now stands inside five of these original buildings, known as the American Circus Corporation’s winter quarters. The polar bear pool is still there, but it’s filled with dirt and grass. The Hippo Pool is gone and replaced with a concrete floor for the mechanic shop. The elephant barn is still there, but the wall has been removed leaving the building open.

Indiana’s rich circus history is the highlight of any visitor’s trip to the Circus Hall of Fame. We’re telling the stories of the circus’ all-time greats, the unsung little worker, management, press agents and the animals everyone loved to see.

We are working on some major developments to repair and restore these grand old barns. Indiana Landmarks has awarded us a matching grant of funds to do a structural assessment.

After we just finished 17 days at the Indiana State Fair and all of us volunteers are getting back to our real jobs, this structural evaluation will happen in October. This will provide many details, CAD drawings and a basic list of priorities to repair first. We will have to do a lot of work to preserve these old buildings. You can help us by going to our Go Fund Me page.

We are open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10:00 to 16:00 and by special arrangement. Please call us at 800-771-0241 to make special arrangements to see part of Indiana’s great circus heritage.

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