Did You Know?
During the 18th century, you could pay your admission ticket to the zoo in London by bringing a cat or a dog to feed the lions.
During the Middle Ages, several sovereigns across Europe maintained menageries at their royal courts. An early example was that of Emperor Charlemagne in the 8th century. His three menageries, at Aachen, Nijmegen, and Ingelheim, located in present-day Netherlands and Germany, housed the first elephants seen in Europe since the Roman Empire, along with monkeys, lions, bears, camels, falcons, and many exotic birds. Charlemagne received exotic animals for his collection as gifts from rulers of Africa and Asia. In 797, the caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid, presented Charlemagne with an Asian elephant named Abul-Abbas. The pachyderm arrived at the Emperor’s residence in Aachen on July 1, 802. He died in June 810.
William the Conqueror had a small royal menagerie. At his manor, Woodstock, he began a collection of exotic animals. Around the year 1100 his son, Henry I, enclosed Woodstock and enlarged the collection. At the beginning of the 12th century, Henry I of England is known to have kept a collection of animals at his palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, reportedly including lions, leopards, lynxes, camels, owls and a porcupine.
The most prominent animal collection in medieval England was the Tower Menagerie in London that began as early as 1204. It was established by King John, who reigned in England from 1199–1216, and is known to have held lions and bears. Henry III received a wedding gift in 1235 of three leopards from Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. The most spectacular arrivals in the early years were a white bear and an elephant, gifts from the kings of Norway and France in 1251 and in 1254 respectively. In 1264, the animals were moved to the Bulwark, which was renamed the Lion Tower, near the main western entrance of the Tower. This building was filled with rows of cages with arched entrances, enclosed behind grilles. They were set in two stories, and it appears that the animals used the upper cages during the day and were moved to the lower story at night. The menagerie was opened to the public during the reign of Elizabeth I in the 16th century. During the 18th century, the price of admission was three half-pence or the supply of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions. Animals recorded here at the end of the 18th century included lions, tigers, hyenas, and bears.