atm-logoWhat was the fate of the animals that were used in Wild West shows when the shows closed down?

Rod Barker
Cave Creek, Arizona

Wild West shows captured the spirit of the Old West and were popular with folks around the world from the 1880s until the second decade of the 20th century. But they were expensive to run, with all that personnel, plus the purchase and care for all the animals. Taking the entire troupe from place to place cost big bucks, so most shows had a limited lifespan. Even the combined shows of Buffalo Bill Cody and Pawnee Bill went bankrupt in 1913.

When the show went belly up, other Wild West shows, rodeos or individuals might have been in the market to buy the animals. Some exotic wildlife, such as buffalo, elk and mountain sheep, might have gone to a zoo or wildlife park. Some animals were offered to the now-unemployed performers in lieu of wages.

My belief, unfortunately, is that many of those animals came to a bad ending when they were no longer needed.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.
If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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