Are bulls a big challenge?
The male elephants represent a special challenge within the keeping of elephants. As is the case for most mammals, also with the elephants the male animal is stronger and more massive than the females. Even the owners of horses declare to have problems with stallions and farmers, who keep an own bull, are the exception to the rule.
What is different with elephant bulls?
Do they require a great effort?
The efforts a zoo has to do for its bull keeping are huge. Besides a separate stable and external enclosure, the bull also needs most qualified bull keepers.
What should a bull’s stable look like?
The bull’s stable has to be constructed by the principle of Protected Contact with an exchange stable. This means that the stable can be divided into two halves by a sliding gate. When the gate is closed, in one half the stable can be cleaned and the feed can be prepared, while in the other half the elephant bull is eating or waiting. With this keeping principle the elephant keeper and the bull don’t get into direct contact and so accidents can be avoided on the whole.
How are bulls treated?
In order to the hygiene of the bull being ensured, the stable barrier has to consist of solid iron bars, which have spaces big enough to wash the elephant but not so big that the elephant can reach the keeper by its trunk.
Why are there so few zoos with elephant bulls?
Because of these structural expenditures, elephant bulls are quite rare in zoos. However this has to change in the near future. Since every zoo with a breeding bull wants to and has to breed, statistically every second elephant birth is a bull calf. All these bull calves need a new and good place. Because already at young age the elephant bulls can become dangerous for the keepers and therefore should be kept in an exchange stable at the age of approximately 4 – 5 years. Unfortunately at present very few zoos are prepared for the keeping of two or – still better – several bulls.
Elephant bulls in circuses?
In the circus it is still more impossible nowadays to keep an elephant bull – at least to some extent – in a way which is appropriate for the animal. Until a few years ago, the people from the circus, but also the audience, had a different opinion. And even today there are small circuses, which have elephant bulls with them.
There are still some circuses that hold elephant bulls even these days, however. Asian elephant bull Shenka (dead 23.12.2007) of Circus Alberti with Stefan Frank was famous. But the duo is an absolutely positive exception to the rule. At more than 40 years of age Shenka seems to have adapted fully to a solitary existence in the circus.
How were things in days gone by?
When a bull had its musth, it could no longer work in the circus ring and was degraded to an exhibit. A sad example is the bull Tusko, which in the 30’s lived in America. Because it was a feared “mankiller”, it was – tied up and bound in chains – presented to the audience as a sad beast.