Jungeland Bull Hooks

Posted By on August 24, 2012

First,  I want to thank Jerry Osborne for sending me these old bull hooks from Jungleland….. they date back to the early 1950’s. Jerry is the nephew of Billy Richards who, with Trader Horn owned Jungleland for a time in the 1950’s. Billy gave the bull hooks along with numerous photos and collectibles to Jerry who has now bestowed them to me. The cane hook was used by one of the Jungleland trainers. It’s function is for cuing the elephants for different tricks. The smaller straight cane hook as well is used for cuing as well , but primarily with baby elephants.

The elephant hook as it is commonly called originated in India and dates back thousands of years. When the elephant came to the American circus so did the elephant hook, however we modified our hooks to be smaller and the hook portion to be blunt. In India the elephant hooks are much different. At one time the elephants of India were revered and the men that work with them were highly respected. These men are called Mahouts, their lives are dedicated their elephants, they live and work with them day in and day out. A life long partnership begins with both elephant and man at a very young age. The Mahouts job is never ending one, feeding, bathing, caring and training to work hauling , pulling carrying the teak wood logs from the jungle forest. The Mahout will have with him a long staff with a large hook and barb it is used to guide, direct and cuing the elephant for what ever is needed by his trainer. The elephant will respond willfully and haul tons of teak logs on his tusks.

 There is a time when bull elephants are not used in work and that is when they are in musk. Bull elephants are left alone to go though their musk, they are watered, feed and made to be as calm as possible by the Mahout. In the American circus most of our elephants are female, for some reason we call them bulls. Female are much easier to handle and you don’t have to worry about musk, but females have their problems too and so you just treat them by not asking to much from them when they have their bad moments.

THE BULL HOOK……… Why the way some people speak of it, one would think that it is an instrument of cruelty and death. In all of my years in this business I have never seen a bull man mistreat his elephants with a bull hook. I have met,worked with or have known just about every bull man in the past 68 years, their devotion to their animals is impeccable. I do know of a few cases of those that got a job on a show as a groom and did some stupid things with a hook………… but they lasted about a day. Everyone on a circus watches out when a newcomer joins up and when we see some thing that is not right or is shady………… He or she is gone! For those of you that are negative in your thoughts concerning the circus and it’s people, I ask you to join us for a few weeks and learn the truth.…………. You will never want to go home.


Thank you Casey for the kind and honest comment.

Thanks Janice for your comment.



About the author

My name is Ivan M. Henry and I am the 4th generation of a circus/show business dynasty. I hope you enjoy the blog.


6 Responses to “Jungeland Bull Hooks”

  1. Casey Gibbs says:

    Thank you Ivan for the excellent description of Bull hooks. A lot of people think that they are used to control a elephant by hurting it rather than as a tool to direct and guide. We use whips,spurs and leashes and choke collars on horses and dogs in the same manner. You look good in the picture my friend. Casey

  2. Bob Cline says:

    Great photo!

  3. Bob Cline says:

    You are certainly doing a great job here, Ivan!

  4. Steve Fleet says:

    Probably once owned by Arkie Scott. Close family friend to my Uncle Albert Fleet and my Dad Wilson Fleet.

  5. Janice Trevino says:

    There was a man By the name Ted that made leather goods and bull hooks. He was a tall man and Bald. I can’t remember his last name But I use to go to his house with my dad all the time. I wonder if he made those. I know Arkie use to go there to But he made bull hooks for everybody.

  6. Wade Burck says:

    I don’t know if the smaller hook was used with baby elephants, or not. It may be just a standard hickory handled hook. The cane hooks were used primarily when working with a single elephant in a work situation, such as setting up the tent. The hook could be “hung’ on the handlers arm so that he had use of both hands to assist the elephant in her task. A few used cane hooks in the ring, but many didn’t as the “cane handle/hook” could catch on a tux pocket or something else. Many back in the day used a long handled hook, often up to 7 foot long called a “herd hook” in the ring. You could stand at one elephant and reach to the end of the line to the last elephant. Fred Logan was one of the last users of a “herd hook.”
    The smaller hook is a cut out hook, not typical of the time. The cane hook is truly a “hand made” object. Hooks were not something that you could go to the “hook store” and by. Today with machines and presses they can be mass produced, using stainless steel, and normally a nylon/fiberglass material for the handle. Some more recent trainers have used a golf club handle with the head cut off and a hook welded on the end. Buckles Woodcock was most known for the golf club hook.
    Lou Regan, my mentor and whom my oldest son is named after, spent time at “the Oaks/Jungleland” and showed me how to make a hook, like the cane hook pictured. The blunt prod at the end is a give away, as to the material used to make the hook. A rake was used to make the hook. An old straight tined garden rake was used and every other tine was cut off leaving one tine and a 3 inch shaft, which was then cut off the rake with a cutting torch. You could make, recalling now, I think 6 or7 hooks on one rake. The steel was heated and hammered straight, and then bent over two steel rods, one being one inch around, for the up curve, and one being 1/2 inch round for the down curve. The hook end after shaped had a small grove filed on the underside to prevent the hook from penetrating the skin, and just applying pressure to the surface area. The hook Lou and I made was what was called a “Lockhart hook” with a lash attached on the end, named supposedly after English elephant trainer, George Lockhart who first used on. A whip was commonly used, and is still used today in Europe, but not in the United States. Misconception being, like most misconceptions, which are wrong is that whip is harmful. Quite the contrary, it permits you to reach a long distance to control a large number of animals by yourself. The last person to use a whip in the ring was European Axel Gautier on Ringling Bros. I used my Lockhart whip exclusively if handling more then three elephants. The whip has been replaced today with men, which is why you see 10 people handling 10 elephants, instead of one or two. The handle of a Lockhart hook was made from a hickory cane hand that is pictured. The shaft was cut off 2 1/2 foot from the end eliminating the hook. The bottom of a broken coke bottle, given it’s thickness was used to “shave” the end of the handle, where the brass ferrel would be placed. The ferrel was slid on the hickory handle, and a hole was drilled for the shaft of the hook. The shaft was filed with “barbs” before it was hammered into the hole. The hook was then placed in a bucket of water for about a week, which caused the hickory wood to “swell” into the ferrel and around the hook. Done properly as it appears you cane hook was done, there was never a need for a pin to keep the hook in the shaft. It was as solid as if it were steel welded to wood. My Lockhart hook, which Lou and I made in 1974 is still in use today, with only the leather lash being replaced twice in all those years. The hickory canes and poles that used to be available exclusively from the Hope Hickory company, in Hope, Arkansas are no longer available, and plastics/nylons/fiberglass are the product used. Try to find a coke bottle for shaving the wood, with a thick bottom today!!!!!! Truly a totally “hand made” object of use, not unlike the leather platting cowboys of old did in making their bosals, reins, and headstalls.

    Wade Burck

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