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Menagerie


A menagerie is a collection of captive animals, frequently exotic, kept for display; or the place where such a collection is kept, a precursor to the modern zoological garden. The term was first used in seventeenth century France in reference to the management of household or domestic stock. Later, it came to be used primarily in reference to or royal animal collections. The French-language "Methodical Encyclopaedia" of 1782 defines a menagerie as an "establishment of luxury and curiosity." Later on, the term referred also to travelling animal collections that exhibited wild animals at fairs across Europe and the Americas.

A menagerie was mostly connected with an aristocratic or royal court and was situated within a garden or park of a palace. The aristocratic menageries are distinguished from the later zoological gardens since they were founded and owned by aristocrats whose intentions were not primarily of scientific and educational interest. These aristocrats wanted to illustrate their power and wealth, because exotic animals, alive and active, were less common, more difficult to acquire, and more expensive to maintain.

During the Middle Ages, several sovereigns across Europe maintained menageries at their royal courts. An early example is that of the 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 on July 1, 802 to the Emperor's residence in Aachen. He died in June 810.



  • Hahn, Daniel (2003). The Tower Menagerie. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN . 
  • Baratay, Eric; Hardouin-Fugier, Elisabeth (2002). Zoo: a History of the Zoological Gardens of the West. London: Reaktion. ISBN . 
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