When wild beasts roamed the UK
The Victorian period witnessed a huge surge in the number of exotic beasts in the towns and cities of England - as creatures were imported from the far reaches of the British Empire. But Victorians' enthusiasms for wild and dangerous animals had some very unpleasant consequences, says Prof John Simons. If you were born in rural England in 1837 and never travelled more than a few miles from your home, you would have been surprisingly likely to see a hippopotamus before you died.
The reign of Queen Victoria saw a surge in the construction of all manner of places where exotic animals could be viewed. And as well as formal, educational settings - private and public zoos, natural history museums - the period brought animals for entertainment to the masses. Travelling menageries would tour towns and cities, featuring performers and their animals.
People could walk into a shop and purchase anything, from an elephant to a bear to a kangaroo.
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So exotic big cats may have been around longer than thought.