Tippoo Sahib (Tippoo Saib) at Van Amburg Circus

Male Asian elephant Tippoo Sahib (Tippoo Saib) at Van Amburg Circus

† Tippoo Sahib (Tippoo Saib)
ID Number:
Species: Asian elephant
Sex and age:Male, unknown years
Dead date: 1871-04-07
Death reason: unknown:
Location:Van Amburg Circus
ArrivedVan Amburg Circus 1848-00-00
from Unknown
Born: wild
Document updated2012-02-11: picture of skeleton
Tippoo Saibs trainer was a Dr. Nash.

Contradictory records:
Different sources gives different date of his death

Records about Tippoo Sahib (Tippoo Saib) from Bob Cline
TIPPO SAIB 1832 - arrives in US
Male Asian 1840 - name is mentioned in historical recordings
1848 to 1856 - Van Amburg Show
1851 - Raymond & Herr Dreisbach
1857 - Broadway Theater
1858 to 1867 - Van Amburg Show
Died - Nov. 5 to 8 area,1867 Connersville, Indiana




OF all the curious combats of which we have any record, there is none more singular than the following, which William Manson, an old circus
man, tells in the New York Sun:

Tippo Sahib was one of the biggest and ugliest elephants ever exhibited in this country. At the time I speak of this elephant was travelling with the Van Amburgh show, which was a celebrated one fifteen or twenty years ago. Old Tip, as we called him, was a chronic kicker, and stood no fooling from any one. His trainer had to be constantly on his guard, for the elephant had disposed
of one or two gentlemen whose confidence in their pluck and ability to handle Tippo had led them to take charge of him, and he was plainly keeping
his eye out for an opportunity to add another one to his score. Old Tip never passed a day without doing something to keep up his record as a pachy-
derm of strong individuality of character, and the incident I am going to relate was one sufficient in itself alone to mark this elephant as a beast with
ideas of his own, and a will mighty enough to carry them into execution, no matter what the consequences might be to himself or to others.

We had been giving a day and night's show at Port Jervis, and the next day were to astonish the natives of Pike County, Pa., by pitching our tents at Milford, the county seat, seven miles below Port Jervis. To get to Milford we had to cross the Delaware River at Port Jervis. At that time the bridge across the stream there was reported to be in a decidedly shaky and dangerous condition ; in fact, it fell down two or three days after we were in Port Jervis, and the managers of the show concluded not to trust ponderous Old Tip on the structure. The river was fordable a quarter of a mile or so below the bridge, and the elephant was taken to that spot to wade across. The time was early in the morning, and when Tippo Sahib got to the river bank he made the grand kick of
his life and refused to go any farther. He swung his trunk around viciously and threateningly, flapped his big ears, kinked his tail, and roared and worked himself into a first-class rage. His keeper coaxed and prodded and prodded and coaxed thv<.
old man-killer for more than an hour without succeeding in inducing him to advance a step, and then concluded to risk the bridge. Tippo seemed to divine his keeper's intention, and then his contrary spirit came uppermost. He immediately made a rush for the river and started for the Pennsylvania shore at such a rate that he almost drowned the keeper with the water he splashed
upon him. He was mad all through. The bottom of the river was rough and stony, and the uncertain footing added to Old Tip's fury. The river was at what they called a rafting freshet. The elephant had got about half-way across the stream,
trumpeting savagely and deluging himself and all around him with showers of water, w^hen suddenly a raft hove in sight above the ford. It bore immediately down with its unsuspecting crew toward Tippo Sahib and his mounted escort. The ugly brute saw the strange-looking object approaching,
and he stopped and gazed at it with angry surprise. Tippo had travelled a bit in his clay and seen a great many curious things, but he had never seen a raft before. He was in a fighting mood, and seemed to think that a raft of logs was about the thing for him to tackle just then. Waving his trunk and giving a trumpet blast that made the hills around there more than echo, he turned his
enormous front up stream and awaited the charge of the raft. Tippo's keeper was in a canoe, which a local oarsman was piloting across for him, and he sank his prod in the big beast with all his might and at every vulnerable spot he could reach, in efforts to start the belligerent elephant ahead and out of the rafting channel. The only result was to increase Old Tip's fury, if that were possible, and to fix him in his determination to have a round with the audacious raft.

Before the men on the raft discovered and understood the situation the raft had made half the distance between the bridge and the ford. As soon as the nature of this most unusual obstruction in the channel became apparent to them they were terror-stricken. There wasn't a man among them, from all accounts, who hadn't had more than one hand-to-hand fight with bear in the lumber woods,
and looked upon that as child's play ; but they drew the line at elephants, and each man bent himself to his oar and pulled as he had never pulled before
to steer the raft away from its direct course in the channel, and avoid the dreaded collision that was otherwise inevitable. But it was too late, and all
their work was in vain. When the crew saw that they were sure to bring up against the big, mad, roaring elephant, every one of them, from the pilot
down, gave up the ship, jumped into the river, and struck out in a wild and helter-skelter race for the New York shore. The deserted raft rushed help
lessly on. Old Tip never moved from his tracks.
His fury was a sight to see.

The raft was made of hemlock logs, and was at least one hundred feet long and forty wide. The water was swift, and so deep where Tip stood that it reached above his belly. Although it was early in the morning, crowds of people had gathered on both sides of the river to witness the novel sight of an elephant fording the stream. When they saw Old Tip stop in the deepest part and wait
for the raft, and resist all efforts to get him out of the way, the people grew wild with excitement. Every one, including the circus people, expected to see the elephant, enormous as he was, carried away, and done up in great shape by the raft, and his owner couldn't have insured Old Tip's life just then for $5. But the ugly old brute came out strong. If he had had a sure footing on the river bottom there is no telling what he wouldn't have done with the raft.

But as it was, when the shock came the raft trembled and snapped, and its speed was greatly diminished. The big elephant couldn't hold his footing on the slippery stones, and the heavy raft in the swift current carried him with it down stream. Old Tip didn't move down as if he had to, but as if he was feeling for a secure foothold, so that he could get his work in on his assailant
and wreck it to pieces there and then. He did get a foothold now and then, but only a temporary one. Every time he stopped, though, he lessened the speed of the raft, until its momentum was so much overcome that the hind end of the raft began to swing with the force of the current. When this began the swift water soon carried the hind end around until it had become the front end, and the
raft ran away from Tippo diagonally toward the New York shore. The elephant gazed after it as if in triumph, and raised his trunk and trumpeted loudly. Once he seemed to have made up his mind to pursue his defeated foe, and took a few steps forward. But he evidently reconsidered that motion, and, stopping in the middle of the rapids, stood there trumpeting and throwing water around
like a whole fire department.

The raft, thrown as it was out of the rafting channel, ran perhaps a hundred yards, where it was cast upon a rocky reef that formed the river bed in part of the channel. The logs flew in all directions and the raft was made about as com-
plete a wreck as one would care to see. At sight of that Old Tip gave a roar that a deaf man might have heard a mile away. The boatman who had charge of Tippo's keeper had rowed wildly to the Pennsylvania shore with the keeper, in spite of the latter's protests, the moment the collision between the raft and the elephant had become a sure thing. When the raft ran on the rocks the keeper induced the native to row him back to where the elephant stood, sounding blasts of victory in his trumpet. Old Tip seemed to be entirely satisfied. He had
spent his fury on the raft and felt better. He turned obediently at his keeper's order and resumed his march to Pennsylvania as docile as if nothing
had occurred that morning to disturb his temper in- the least.

On reaching the shore the keeper made a halt to see whether the old terror had received any injury in the combat. There wasn't a sign of even a scratch upon him. While they stood on the bank, however, another raft was seen coming down,
just below the bridge. The men on that raft had seen the latter part of the misunderstanding between Old Tip and the raft ahead of them, and had been pulling with all their might to run their raft to the ]STew York shore. When the elephant went out of the water so meekly, though, they had concluded that the danger was over, and they rested on their oars, content to pass on. Tippo did not see this raft until it had run down to a point almost even with the spot where he was standing. Then he caught sight of it. He gazed at it for a
second or two in amazement. It was as if he were saying:

" What ! Another one want some of me?
Then he raised his trunk, gave a bellow that made everything rattle, and charged down the bank for the river again. The men on the raft didn't wait for subsequent proceedings, but jumped into the water and never looked back until
they were safely landed high and dry on the New York shore. The deserted raft sped on. Tippo's keeper flew around like a crazy man to stop the charge of the elephant, so suddenly enraged again, but if Old Tip hadn't apparently made up his mind, after reaching the water's edge, that the raft was too big a coward for him to bother with, and that he could give vent to his feelings sufficiently
toy hurling defiant and derisive roars at it, the keeper couldn't have kept him back any more than he could have stopped a cyclone.

The second raft ran on the rocks some distance below and was wrecked, and Tippo didn't raise another objection to proceeding on his journey. In fact, he was in rather a jolly mood all the way to Milford, and so thoroughly was he pleased with his work that day that his keeper had no trouble with him for a week afterward. All that season when Old Tip got on his ear and wanted to smash
things, his keeper would say:

" I wish we could run the old man into a river somewhere and give him another round or two with a raft."

But the proprietors of the show didn't wish for anything of that kind. It took all the profits of the show for a town or two to pay for Old Tip's wrecking of the two rafts, and I don't know how much for damage claimed by the panic-stricken crew. I left the show that season, but, if I remember correctly, Old Tip subsequently succeeded in killing that same keeper, and then was killed
himself. But he was a great old elephant, all the same.


Its skeleton was buried at the top of Indian Hill on the Charles Frost farm 3 miles North west of Connersville and later exhumed in 1877 and mounted in 1878 at nearby Earlham college. The skeleton was later destoyed in a fire in 1924.

Sources, among others

  • A History of the Traveling Menagerie by Stuart Thayer, http://www.circushistory.org/Thayer/Thayer2b.htm
  • http://bucklesw.blogspot.com/2012/02/from-kenton-cornish-1.html
  • Edward Sylvester Ellis. Old Ironsides, the hero of Tripoli and 1812, and other tales and adventures on sea and land (page 4 of 15) http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/edward-sylvester-ellis/old-ironsides-the-hero-of-tripoli-and-1812-and-other-tales-and-adventures-on-s-ill/page-4-old-ironsides-the-hero-of-tripoli-and-1812-and-other-tales-and-adventures-on-s-ill.shtml

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