When Did Zoos Start?
Zoos have been around since ancient times. As early as 1500 B.C., Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt had a zoo full of wild animals. The oldest known zoological collection was revealed during excavations at Hierakonpolis, Egypt in 2009, of a ca. 3500 B.C. The exotic animals included hippos, hartebeest, elephants, baboons and wildcats.
Early kings and wealthy noblemen collected and displayed wild animals in their private gardens to entertain royal guests and as symbols of wealth. Eventually, small public zoos began to appear in many cities of the world. These early zoos were called menageries. Most of them had only a few bears, lions or tigers.
King Ashur-bel-kala of the Middle Assyrian Empire created Zoological and Botanical Gardens in the 11th century BC. In the 2nd century BCE, the Chinese Empress Tanki had a “house of deer” built, and King Wen of Zhou kept a 1,500-acre (6.1 km2) zoo called Ling-Yu, or the Garden of Intelligence.
Other well-known collectors of animals included King Solomon of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah, queen Semiramis and king Ashurbanipal of Assyria, and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia.
By the 4th century BCE, zoos existed in most of the Greek city states; Alexander the Great is known to have sent animals that he found on his military expeditions back to Greece.
The Roman emperors kept private collections of animals for study or for use in the arena, the latter faring notoriously poorly. As interest in wild animals increased, zoos grew in size. Today, nearly all big cities have zoos.