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Human zoos: Shocking Photos Depict How Zoos Around The World Kept Primitive People To Entertain Westerns

The zoo is where we go to see the wild animals and birds that we don’t encounter in our everyday lives. However, zoos have not always seen animals. Some zoos kept humans too. These so-called “human zoos” around the globe kept primitive or indigenous natives incarcerated with animals in harsh conditions to satisfy the rich people. Thousands of indigenous individuals, including women and children from Asia and Africa, and other parts of the world, were brought to humans’ zoos both legally and illegally to entertain the desperate westerns to see the primitive people described by explorers and historians. These indigenous people lived in harsh conditions; they were allowed to wore only traditional clothes in winter and summer. They were instructed to perform humiliating acts such as; a seasonal dog-eating ritual, barking with dogs, showing off “primitive” skills, fight and many more. These people live incarcerated or with no bars; however, they didn’t escape, especially those brought from distant continents, because they had nowhere else to go. These human zoos could be found in Paris, Hamburg, Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Milan, New York City, and several other places. Please have a look at show how cruelly they were treated to attract tourists. Some of these shocking photographs were taken as recently as 1958.

#1 An African girl at the 1958 Expo in Brussels, Belgium that featured a ‘Congo Village’ with visitors watching her from behind wooden fences.

#2 This Eskimo child, with a dog, was born at World’s Fair in Chicago and is pictured after being transferred to World’s Fair, St. Louis in 1904.

#3 German zoologist Professor Lutz Heck (left) with an elephant and a family he brought to the Berlin Zoo, in Germany in 1931.

#4 Professor Lutz Heck, director of the Berlin Zoo, arrives in Berlin, 1931. With him are members of the African Sara-Kaba tribe, who will soon be put on display. The scarves over the women’s mouths are covering their lip plates.

#5 ‘Cannibals carrying their master’, natives performing an act at World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Ill.” 1893.

#6 Indigenous people participating in archery in 1904 in St Louis, Missouri, at an event named the ‘Savage Olympics Exhibition’.

#7 The World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium in 1958 featured this mocked-up Senegalese village. Shows held across the Western world were designed to emphasize the cultural difference between Europeans and people who were deemed primitive.

#8 Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II is pictured meeting Ethiopians standing behind a wooden fence in Hamburg, Germany in 1909.

#9 An Egyptian dancing girl at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, USA, circa 1893.

#10 A man in native headgear and dress at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in about 1893.

#11 This youngster was among others at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in about 1891.

#12 African exhibition subjects pose in Oslo, Norway, 1914.

#13 A Congolese Pygmy tribe dances at the St. Louis World Fair in 1904.

#14 Members of the Selk’Nam tribe were kept on display while they were transported to Europe.

#15 Carl Hagenbeck, the man who created the concept of zoos, captured 11 Selk’Nam natives and kept them locked in cages.

#16 Paris’s human zoo, called Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale.

#17 Jardin had over a million visitors in the six months it lasted, and was built as a symbol of France’s colonial power.

#18 This particular zoo maintained entire villages to represent life in the colonies. The villages and their incarcerated inhabitants were on display to depict all parts of colonial life; everything from the agriculture to the architecture of the time.

#19 This is Sarah Baartman, who was displayed exotically in tight clothing. After her death, her remains were kept in Paris’s Museum of Mankind until 2002, when Nelson Mandela asked for them to be removed.

#20 A mother and her child being displayed in Germany’s “Negro Village.”

#21 Another photo taken from Germany’s “Negro Village” highlights the inhumane treatment of the people on display there, with only a chainlink fence separating the village’s prisoners from the outside world.

#22 Exhibiting captured Asian and African people in makeshift natural habitats became a popular occurrence.

#23 The 1931 Parisian World Fair also fed into the public’s desire to see exotic cultures kept at an arm’s length.

#25 Carl Hagenbeck’s ‘Galla Troop’, pictured in enclosure with ostriches, zebras, goats, camels and donkeys. Also pictured the three huts that they lived in. (“1908 Carl Hagenbeck’s Galla-Truppe – Human Zoos,” n.d.)

#26 These women were recruited to work in a Paris zoo because of a genetic characteristic known as steatopygia – protuberant buttocks and elongated labia. Whites went to the zoo to stare at their curves.

#27 At the 1931 Parisian World Fair, this exhibit was so successful that it drew 34 million people that year.

#28 Ota Benga, a Congolese man exhibited in the New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1906, was shockingly described as a ‘missing link’ of evolution. Over 40,000 people came to see him every day and was often subject to mocking from the crowd.

Ota Benga, a Congolese man exhibited in the New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1906, was shockingly described as a ‘missing link’ of evolution. Over 40,000 people came to see him every day and was often subject to mocking from the crowd.

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#29 Chief Yellow Hair and his council standing in front of replicas of teepees at a human zoo at the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis, Missouri.

Chief Yellow Hair and his council standing in front of replicas of teepees at a human zoo at the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis, Missouri.

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#30 The dreadful treatment of Ota Benga (second from left), a Congolese man ‘exhibited’ in New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1906, sparked outrage and he was eventually released. But six years later he tragically took his own life after being unable to assimilate into

The dreadful treatment of Ota Benga (second from left), a Congolese man ‘exhibited’ in New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1906, sparked outrage and he was eventually released. But six years later he tragically took his own life after being unable to assimilate into

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#31 A photograph crudely named ‘The extremes meet – civilized and savage watching life savers’ exhibition’ shows a scene from the World’s Fair St. Louis, 1904, with tourists watching people deemed ‘primitive’.

A photograph crudely named ‘The extremes meet – civilized and savage watching life savers’ exhibition’ shows a scene from the World’s Fair St. Louis, 1904, with tourists watching people deemed ‘primitive’.

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#32 Unidentified members of a human exhibition in Oslo, Norway, 1914.

Unidentified members of a human exhibition in Oslo, Norway, 1914.

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#34 Filipinos in loin cloths sitting in a circle together at Coney Island in New York in the early 20th century while crowds of Americans watch on from behind barriers.

Filipinos in loin cloths sitting in a circle together at Coney Island in New York in the early 20th century while crowds of Americans watch on from behind barriers.

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#35 Igorot men from the Philippines wearing loincloths and carrying hand drums, dance at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, November 13, 1904.

Igorot men from the Philippines wearing loincloths and carrying hand drums, dance at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, November 13, 1904.

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#36 This unidentified African man was cruelly displayed as an exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair in Missouri. The words ‘the missing link’ were scrawled on both of the photos.

This unidentified African man was cruelly displayed as an exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair in Missouri. The words ‘the missing link’ were scrawled on both of the photos.

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#37 Louis World’s Fair, the Apache hero Geronimo (pictured) would pose for tourists and signs autographs. Geronimo and several other Native American chiefs were also ‘on display’ at the event.

Louis World’s Fair, the Apache hero Geronimo (pictured) would pose for tourists and signs autographs. Geronimo and several other Native American chiefs were also ‘on display’ at the event.

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#38 Ota Benga, a Congolese man, in New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1906.

Ota Benga, a Congolese man, in New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1906.

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#39 A young Filipino girl sitting on a wooden bench in an enclosure in Coney Island, New York in another horrifying 1906 ‘exhibit’.

A young Filipino girl sitting on a wooden bench in an enclosure in Coney Island, New York in another horrifying 1906 ‘exhibit’.

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Written by Jacob Aberto

Sincere, friendly, curious, ambitious, enthusiast. I'm a content crafter and social media expert. I love Classic Movies because their dialogue, scenery and stories are awesome.

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