Staffordshire pottery portrait figures: A spot of anger management.

Published 29th August 2012

How often do we use a word in common parlance without a thought to its origin? Jumbo is a default name for all pachyderms and for things of large size, but how did it arrive in the Oxford English Dictionary?


A Staffordshire Pottery figure of Jumbo

The original Jumbo was born in Mali and was transferred to London Zoo in 1865 via Paris. His London keeper gave him the name after the Swahili term for Chief (Jumbe). Initially he was used as a popular ride by thousands until he started to become aggressive and was sold onto Barnum’s Circus despite 100,000 letters of protest from Victorian school children.


Jumbo's tragic end in an Ontario railway yard.

Tragically Jumbo’s bad temper was his downfall and after only two years across the Atlantic whilst in an Ontario railway yard he fatally charged a locomotive.

Subscribe to catalogue alerts & news

Select your interests