The Elephants of Wirth's Circus - A living timeline

This is a living timeline of the Wirth's Circus elephants. I'll update this post as I go.

The Elephants of Wirth Circus

An Approximate Time Line


Wirth’s purchase their first elephant Ghunah Sah or Ghuni Sah (Female) from a Scottish Timber Merchant in Rangoon[1]

….Old Gunni Sar used to be the pride of the elephant herd, for which Wirth's Circus is noted. Mr. Philip Wirth bought her at Rangoon many years ago from a hard-headed Scotsman called Mackenzie….


December 1900 -  March 1901

Wirth’s tour New Zealand with one elephant Ghunah Sah billed as the ‘Only Bucking Elephant’

…“A good deal of merriment was caused by the futile efforts of a few of the, audience to ride a bucking elephant, whose peculiar and ungainly movements invariably resulted in the riders being helplessly thrown from his back, despite the fact that they resorted to every conceivable method of trying to retain their seats”.[2]

…“Ghumi Sah (Ghunah Sah), the elephant, performed several clever feats, and then proceeded to give an exhibition of bucking. Any man or boy was offered £1 if he could stay on Ghumi's back for three minutes, but though several tried, none succeeded.”[3]


Tour New Zealand with one elephant


Wirth’s Tour New Zealand with two elephants

Ghunah Sah and Toby

Toby purchased from Moore Park Zoo in Sydney who obtained the animal from W. H. Hartley reported as arriving in Wellington[4]

Toby made her debut[5] in Wellington 18 March 1904[6]


Tour of New Zealand with three elephants

Toby, Ghunah Sah and a young bull calf at foot Wirth’s claimed to be the first elephant born in Australia[7]

“…While we were shaking the trunk of Miss Toby and Gunah Sah, the wildebeast waltzed up and introduced herself as the second cousin to the wild sheep from Barbary. The elephant Gunah Sah is the largest in the show. She it is who claims, for her son the first and only baby elephant born in Australia. He is a cute little cuss, not yet 12 months old.”

April 1905

Four elephants were to be shipped from India (location unknown) by the steamer Ashbridge by George Brickhill[8]

“…Mr. George B. Brickhill, who is at present in India for the purpose of securing elephants, has written to Messrs. Wirth Bros., giving a description of his experiences inland and the troubles encountered in bringing a herd of elephants to the coast. He states that he expected to he able to ship four elephants for Wirth's Circus by the steamer Ashbridge...”

August 1905

Elephants from India[9] are reported being added to the collection

“…The animals which were recently imported from India including the tapirs, 30ft python, new elephants, and others as yet unknown to Australians, will be exhibited for the first time on Saturday night and as far as possible explanations will be given of interesting facts pertaining to their habitat…”

September 1905

5 elephants are reported as working animals in the Wirth’s contingent[10]

“…To convey this great organisation through the country three special trains are used. When they will arrive here on Monday morning, the 25 waggons, the five elephants, 50 horses, the camels, etc., will be unloaded ready for the morning parade to the ground..”

An elephant named Jess escapes from Wirth’s Circus[11]

“…At Forbes last night during the performance of Wirth’s Circus, the elephant Jess got loose and escaped. On the alarm being raised Jess was found peering into the bar door of a hotel to the great consternation of those inside…”

December 1905

Two more elephants arrive from either Singapore or Calcutta on the Gracchus[12]

“…December 27. Sydney, ….Gracchus, from Calcutta and Singapore— 1,600 chests tea, 3,000 bdls rattans, 300 bales gunnies, 500 bags general produce, and two elephants for Wirth's Circus..”



Wirth Circus Tour New Zealand December 1906 – March 1907

A report from January 1906 in an Australian Newspaper[13] mentions Wirth’s as having 8 elephants including the young baby Jumbo from Ghunah Sah

“….The menagerie, too, is the largest and best Wirths have possessed, and includes no fewer than eight elephants, which is claimed to be the largest performing herd in the Southern Hemisphere. The baby Jumbo is the only elephant born in Australia, its birthplace being Sydney.”


Elephants of Wirth’s Circus Otago Witness 5 February 1908

Left to right: Jumbo (the first), Lizzie, Unidenitfied, Molly, Toby, Alice and Cardy (Cardigan) Six elephants are in the image


Death of ‘Annie’ from poisoning at Mt Gambier[14]

Elephants List in year order

1898 Ghunah Sah (Female) from Rangoon
1904 Toby (Female) from Moore Park Zoological Gardens in Sydney
1905 Jumbo (The First) (Male) born to Ghunah Sah in Australia bred by Wirths and born at Moore Park Zoo (aka Sydney Zoo)
1905 ‘Jess’ (one reference found this name could have been changed or it was misreported)
1905 Cardigan (Cardy) (Male) from India some reports say he was 5 years old when he arrived
1905 Molly (Female) from India
1906 Lizzie (Female) from Fitzgerald Brothers Circus
1907 Alice (Princess Alice) (Female)From William Anderson of Wonderland City Bondi NSW
1923 Annie (Female)[15]

[1] The Advertiser 13 June 1929
[2] Otago Daily Times 24 December 1900
[3] Auckland Star 4 March 1901
[4] Otago Witness 23 March 1904
[5] Evening Post 14 March 1904
[6] Evening Post 19 March 1904
[7] Otago Witness 22 February 1905
[8] Sydney Morning Herald 26 April 1905
[9] The Brisbane Courier 2 August 1905
[10] Yea Chronicle 28 September 1905
[11] Barrier Miner 5 September 1905
[12] The Register 28 December 1905
[13] Barrier Miner 5 March 1906
[14] Barrier Miner 19 October 1929
[15] Barrier Miner 19 October 1929


  1. Reg, 1905 Jumbo (The First) (Male) born to Ghunah Sah in Australia bred by Wirths and born at Moore Park Zoo (aka Sydney Zoo),

    This is sensational news, I wonder if Taronga can confirm this, since I guess thay have the records from Moore Park?

    I have 2 Jumbos filed there:
    which died 1896-06-15


    as well as a Jumbo at Wirths

    May this be Australias first captive born elephant?

  2. Jumbo the first was definitely born to Ghunah Sah it took me while to locate some kind of reference that substantiated Wirth's claims that they had bred the first elephant to be born in Australia. And yes indeed he is the first captive born elephant in Australia

    There were definitely two Jumbos in the Wirth's Circus. I suspect (and it's only a suspicion) that the elephant 'Dundry' that was shot at Taronga was the Jumbo born to Ghunah Sah.

    Wirth's had a lot of knowledge about their elephants. An interview with George Wirth had him quoting the musth cyclc and how male elephants could be very difficult. I'm still researching further into this but Jumbo the first seemed to abruptly vanish from the records then next we find a report in the Evening Post from 1923 that Taronga Park's 'big show elephant Jumbo' was shot. The date of the elephant's death ties in exactly the the date of death for Dundry. So it's possible that it was Jumbo the first renamed that was put down at Taronga. The age does almost fit.

  3. I've just done another search in Trove

    It looks like indeed Taronga purchased Jumbo the first from Wirth's Circus and had obviously renamed him.

    Article Titled "The End of Jumbo"

    .. and (broke both his fine tusks. He was bought for the Zoo from Messrs. Wirth Bros.' circus more ... Jumbo's End. "Jumbo", the elephant at. Taronga Park Zoo, is no more. Recently the Zoo trust passed sentence of death on "Jumbo". And the big fellow was executed at dawn.

    The Western Champion (Barcaldine, Qld. : 1922 - 1937) Saturday 9 June 1923 p 11

    The entire article has yet to come on line but I think we now have our answer. Jumbo the First is 'Dundry' I'll make a note on the document I have then add it into this post.


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