Somers, NY Is the Cradle of the American Circus
Did you know that the Ringling Brother's Barnum and Bailey circus elephants got their start in Somers, New York?
According to an article in the Yorktown-Somers NY Patch, there is a memorial for the first elephant to tour the country at The Elephant Hotel in Somers. The elephant was brought to the U.S in 1796 from Calcutta. Hachaliah Bailey, who lived in Somers, purchased the elephant named Old Bet in 1808 for $1,000, with the intention of using her as a menagerie elephant to show across the country, which is how the Ringling Brother's Circus began.
Old Bet passed away in 1827, and the story goes, that the elephant is buried in front of The Elephant Hotel. On May 1, 2016, the ponderous pachyderms played their last shows for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and were sent to The Center for Elephant Conservation, a 200 acre state-of-the-art facility that's dedicated to the preservation of these amazing animals.
I can't help wondering that if elephants could talk, what would they say about their life in the circus. According to Dea Birkett, a woman who used to ride the elephants into the big top, says that these kind gentle, ginormous animals were treated with love and respect, and given showers every day. She has seen how well the animals were attended to by their trainers. She wonders how organizations like the Born Free Foundation can accuse the animal handlers of abuse, when these people don't travel with the circus, and have never had first hand knowledge of how the animals are really cared for. I'm thinking the truth is somewhere in the middle.