Monday, October 31, 2005

"Modoc"

In scanning over the past weeks items, I came across one I intended to respond to but forgot.
It regards Ralph Helfer's elephant "Wallace Show Modoc" that Anonymous cited as having lived longer than the 70 year old "Gentry Babe" that I wrote of, citing Mr. Helfer's book.
In 1939 the Ringling Show left Sarasota with 44 elephants that included three with the same name "Big Modoc", "Little Modoc" and "Wallace Modoc". The oldest was "Little Modoc" having gone back to Ringling Bros. Circus in Baraboo before the turn of the century and who died in Sarasota in the mid 1940's making her about 55 at the time of her death.
"Big Modoc" was a very famous elephant and featured with RBBB for many years. She started out with the Leon Washburn Show in 1905, joined the Ringling Show in 1931 and remained with that show throughout it's under canvas years and died in Sarasota in Jan. of 1957 at approxemately 60.
The third "Modoc", the one that Mr. Helfer wound up with and wrote the book about was a rather non discript animal usually called "One Eyed Modoc" being blind in one eye. She was imported by the American Circus Corporation in 1922 and toured with such shows as Gollmar Bros., John Robinson, Hagenbeck-Wallace and Al G. Barnes before coming to the Ringling Show.
Afterward she was with Biller Bros., the Memphis Zoo, Africa USA in Saugus, Ca., Africa USA in Fillmore, Ca. and finally to the Anderson Animal Farm in Buellton, Ca.
Since she died in 1972, that would have made her 55 if that, at her time of death.
Helfer took the libety of including Little Modoc's Baraboo years, Big Modoc's glory years with the Ringling Show and incorporating them into his elephants history for use in his book.
That he would do this, either thru ignorance or greed is unknown, but that the mighty Guinness Book of World Records would simply take his word for her age is ridiculous.
In fact his "Mococ" probably had the shorftest life span of the three.

18 comments:

rebecca said...

It is amazing how storys are told and believed by thousands. This time change sucks. The storys about the circus animals that we all know have been told by a/r are believed and spread with out any real unfrabrecated(sic) proof. It had just about ruined the great world of the circus as we knew it. Its enough to make me want to smack someone.

Anonymous said...

Buckles:
The late Max Schumann once told me it was important for a horse to learn his name "so he could come to you (when called)" and learn what was expected of him. Some of these poor elephants seem to have had three or four names during their lives. And on some shows, it seems there were two or three elephants with the same name (except perhaps preceded by a "Ringling"...or a "Barnes"...or a "Wallace"...) I realize tone of voice has a lot to do with it --- but how does it work (for the poor elephant) when his/her name keeps changing? Do they quickly get used to the new name, each time? Or is there a learning curve? Thank you. ToddP

rebecca said...

It appears to me that an elephant handler is standing right next to the elephant when they make a request so that elephant knows it is being asked to do something. No matter what its name is. I also always thought an elephant kept the same name for life.(except when it had been naughty) Shame on you for comparing the intelegence(sic) of a horse with that of an elephant.

Buckles said...

Dear Todd,
When John Ringling bought the American Circus Corporation in 1929 it included 5 major circuses and in almost every elephant herd there was a "Babe", a "Jenny" or a "Trilby".
Consequently as the Great Depression gradually eliminated these shows the good elephants were absorbed into the Ringling herd. This accounts for the 3 Modoc's with RBBB in 1939.
Changing one's name is not as difficult as you might think since they are very clever. Hugo Schmitt took over the Ringling herd in 1948 when he couldn't speak over a dozen words of English, before long the elephants understood German perfectly.

rebecca said...

I want to Paul and Dottys Winter Quarter to work the Lion Act they had bought from the trainer at the St Louis Zoo. I could not work them come hell or high water, Gene Garner quite by accident said some thing to some one in Spanish and the lions paid attention to him. The Comady lion was a real diva for sure, He ended up working the act as they had been trained in Spanish. I do good to speak English. He ended up in Mexico working the lions we had trained from cubs named after Buckles mom. Babe and Sarah.. Never knew what happened to him. Still looking.

Roger said...

Like any book looked to for authority, Guinness is loathe to discover an error, basking in their research on any claim. But they will look into so well documented a true history as Buckles has on the real Modocs. Hefner deserves the whistle blowed on him. His wife, Terri, wrote what is known as a junk book, GENTLE JUNGLE, in which she denigrated Mabel Stark, our best cat man, Benny Bennett, and all that was Jungleland. It is known she approached Mabel about tiger training, got scathingly scorned for it, and this was her chance to try to tear Mabel down. She and Ralph share the same lasting disdain as another former Jungleland flop I well remember, the reigning nut-case of them all, Pat Derby.

Roger said...

Just noticed I wrote Hefner. Maybe a Freudian slip, since Hef's notorious mansion isn't that far from me. The spelling of Ralph's name should have been Helfer.

Anonymous said...

Also the Adam Forepaugh herd of 1893 also had a grown elephant
by the name of"Modoc".

Anonymous said...

Also the Cole Bros."Little Modoc",
later became notoroius when she killed her keeper and two others down in Mexico City during the filming of the NBC television series"Tarzan",back in 1966
(starring Ron Ely as Tarzan)remember that show?

Anonymous said...

that Modoc is listed in the 1996,1998 editions of Guiness Book of World records.Im not sure if its in later editions,maybe they corrected it.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason that Modoc is no longer listed in the Guiness Book of World Records is because,they found one evn more ancient.2003 edition says,
Oldest Elephant
Lakshmikutty lived to be 84 years old at a temple in India
It says she was born in 1913 and lived until 1997.
Yours truely,
The Book Worm

Buckles said...

When people asked me how old Anna May was I always said 102.
Does anyone have the Guinness phone number?

Anonymous said...

Is the 1897 Ringling Modoc
the same elephant as the performing elephant Modoc of the Adam Forepaugh show of 1892?
BTW Where is the photo of Modoc?(any Modoc)

Buckles said...

I think I saw the same 4-Paw list that you that included a "Modoc" but I don't have her in any other of my files.
The "Mododc" with Ringling in 1897 was an imported baby and toured with no other show.
I'll dig out a few Big Modoc pictures for you in the morning.

Anonymous said...

I read about that in "george Arstingstall Speaks"which was published in the 1893 Adam Forepaugh route book,it .
The article originally appeared in the St. Louis Globe newspaper.
Interesting enough it mentions that Modoc was chained to a "ugly Brute" named Charley,that almost killed Arstingstall around 1892.
I wonder if this is the same"Charley",that killed Henry Hoffman at the Ben Wallace winter quarters in Peru Indiana in April 1901?

Anonymous said...

Why does the book speak of Modoc having beautiful tusks but the pictures of Modoc in the book show her without tusks?

And where was she for 10 years? Not with the same person she was rescued from?

Julie said...

Regarding photo of a Modoc on the cover of the book calling her the greatest elephant that ever lived... Can anyone tell me the name of the photographer? I saw a collection if his outstanding work in the late 80s or early 90s, and would like to see it again; full of b/w photos of animals and people. I'm trying to locate the book, and the photo of modoc sitting with the child's arm around her is the photo I remember the most. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

THELASTELEPHANTS said...

Which Modoc escaped in Wabash County, Indiana in 1942? and did Ralph Helfer get his Modoc from the Memphis Zoo?