Friday, May 24, 2013

The First Zoo

Where and when was the first zoo?  Of course, depending on your definition of the word "zoo," different people might have different answers to this question.  The oldest known zoological collection has been excavated at Hierakanopolis in Egypt, dating to around 3500 B.C.  So far, the remains of numerous animals have been uncovered there.  According to one source, 112 different animals have been found, including elephants, wildcats, hippos, cows, hartebeest, baboons, dogs, and an Aurochs, the subject of an Animal Spotlight awhile back!  (Click HERE to check it out!)  Since my source is a few years out of date, it is entirely possible that more discoveries have been made there since then!  Despite all of this, most scientists don't believe this is the first "zoo," at least not by modern definitions, a place where anyone can come and look at these animals.  It is thought that the site at Hierakanopolis is more of a private collection kind of thing.

Most people seem to agree that the first public zoo was created by Queen Hatshepsut, a zoo that people today would define as a zoo.  Not a lot of data (at least not that I can find) exists to tell us what sort of animals Hatshepsut kept in her zoo.  Some of the animals that we do know were imported include rhinos, cattle, giraffes, leopards, monkeys, and hounds.  Presumably, some of the other animals that we mentioned before made it into the zoo, as well.

What other animals could have made it into the zoo?  A lot of this is speculation on my part, but based on the animals of the surrounding area, here are some animals that I think likely made it into these zoos:

There are many reports of other important Ancient Egyptians possessing captive lions, and it seems like captive lions would be a pretty impressive display of one's power.  I find it very likely that both cheetahs and jungle cats were members of the zoos, as well, as cheetahs (generally fairly docile around humans, especially compared to other large African cats like lions and leopards) have been domesticated a number of times throughout history.  These domestic cheetahs were used by many people, including Akbar the Great of India (who was thought to have around 9,000 cheetahs: not to be confused with Admiral Ackbar), for hunting, both for sport and for sustenance.  Jungle cats, too are reported to have been domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians in order to hunt water birds.  Mummified remains of the jungle cat are sometimes found in ancient tombs, put there by the burial people.  (I don't actually know if they have a special name or something).  

This was the birthday post of Grace Albers! Happy birthday, Grace! If you have a birthday coming up, just email me the date at with the date and your favorite animals, and I will do my best to get a post in! And if you like what you are reading, please feel free to follow us here or via Facebook!

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