Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $8.04
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 70%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (8) from $8.04   
  • New (5) from $27.67   
  • Used (3) from $8.04   


To modern sensibilities, nineteenth-century zoos often seem to be unnatural places where animals led miserable lives in cramped, wrought-iron cages. Today zoo animals, in at least the better zoos, wander in open spaces that resemble natural habitats and are enclosed, not by bars, but by moats, cliffs, and other landscape features. In Savages and Beasts, Nigel Rothfels traces the origins of the modern zoo to the efforts of the German animal entrepreneur Carl Hagenbeck.

By the late nineteenth century, Hagenbeck had emerged as the world's undisputed leader in the capture and transport of exotic animals. His business included procuring and exhibiting indigenous peoples in highly profitable spectacles throughout Europe and training exotic animals—humanely, Hagenbeck advertised—for circuses around the world. When in 1907 the Hagenbeck Animal Park opened in a village near Hamburg, Germany, Hagenbeck brought together all his business interests in a revolutionary zoological park. He moved wild animals out of their cages and into "natural landscapes" alongside "primitive" peoples from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the islands of the Pacific. Hagenbeck had invented a new way of imagining captivity: the animals and people on exhibit appeared to be living in the wilds of their native lands.

By looking at Hagenbeck's multiple enterprises, Savages and Beasts demonstrates how seemingly enlightened ideas about the role of zoos and the nature of animal captivity developed within the essentially tawdry business of placing exotic creatures on public display. Rothfels provides both fascinating reading and much-needed historical perspective on the nature of our relationship with the animal kingdom.

Johns Hopkins University Press

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Chronicle of Higher Education

Rothfels is attuned to the ironies pervading zoos' mediation of people and animals and understands that zoos operate according to entrepreneurial rather than environmental principles... The history of human displays conducted under the guise of anthropology and ethnography has been documented before, but never with such a keen sense of connection between these and zoo operations. Rothfels uses the experience of Carl Hagenbeck, a 19th-century animal dealer and a prominent force behind both zoos and human displays, to document the insidious links between the two enterprises: part of the sordid historical legacy that zoos have never confronted, much less expunged.


Savages and Beasts is an excellent book: Rothfels' arguments are subtle and well documented, and complemented by an excellent selection of photographs and illustrations.

German Studies Review

A fascinating if disturbing tale of animal and human display.


Rothfels's work elucidates how zoos offer a carefully scripted version of how human beings should understand animals.

Journal of the History of Biology

Convincingly argues that the image of Hagenbeck as a modern-day Noah, a great animal lover trying to educate the public about the wonders of nature, belies the basic nature of Hagenbeck's enterprise. That enterprise had very little to do with love for animals, and everything to do with making money. More generally, Rothfels raises questions about past practices of exhibiting animals (and people) and about what zoos of the present are all about.

International Zoo News

It is Nigel Rothfels' great service to show how Carl Hagenbeck's growing experience in mounting his ethnographic spectacles, and his observation of the public's reception of them, led to ideas culminating in a new kind of zoological park... Rothfels has written a genuinely important book for anyone interested in zoos, his perspective is new and convincing.

New Scientist

Rothfels... focuses on the 19th-century origins of modern zoos and the man who made it all happen. Carl Hagenbeck, a German animal dealer and zoo visionary, was the owner of the first zoo without bars, and he invented the use of a moated display and many other now-standard techniques. Savages and Beasts is a fine read, in which good use of picture archives has complemented the writer's extensive documentary research.

Animal Welfare

The book is a good read and provides an interesting historical perspective... In short, this is an interesting book; it tells the story of [Carl] Hagenbeck, his peoples and animals from a slightly different perspective.

American Historical Review

This is much more than a history of Hagenbeck's many successes. It is an historical explanation for why the environments of zoos today are meant to mask the human character of the places in which animals are forced to live their unnatural lives.


Important, timely, and stimulating... A rich source on so much; Rothfel's account of Hagenbeck's consolidation of the animal trade, for instance, is exemplary, the mobilization of much research into a lucid exposition of overarching trends.

Important, timely, and stimulating... A rich source on so much; Rothfel's account of Hagenbeck's consolidation of the animal trade, for instance, is exemplary, the mobilization of much research into a lucid exposition of overarching trends.
Garry Marvin
A lucid, sophisticated, and nuanced account of the role that Carl Hagenbeck played in the history of the public exhibition of animals and people. Nigel Rothfels offers a complex but accessible account of the zoo as a cultural institution that has shaped our ideas about animals. The choice of illustrations is excellent and it should find a wide audience among historians, anthropologists, and general readers interested in the relationship between humans and animals.
From The Critics
As a contribution to the growing literature on the origins and development of the trade in exotic animals and peoples, historian Rothfels tells the story of Carl Hagenbeck, who initiated the idea of modern zoos, with their naturalistic enclosures rather than cages, outside Hamburg, Germany in the middle 19th century. By the 1870s, his business had spread to the worldwide trade in exotic animals and indigenous peoples. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801889752
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Series: Animals, History, Culture
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,242,131
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Nigel Rothfels received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University and is director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the editor of Representing Animals.

Johns Hopkins University Press

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


List of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Entering the GatesChapter 1: Gardens of HistoryChapter 2: Catching AnimalsChapter 3: "Fabulous Animals": Showing PeopleChapter 4: ParadiseConclusion: When Animals SpeakNotesA Note on SourcesIndex

Johns Hopkins University Press

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)