Zoological Society Bulletin
September 1923
Volume XXVI
No. 5

"My Animal Friends" by Helen Keller

Part II: My Acquaintance with Zoologica1 Park Animals

"On my first visit to Boston, soon after my eighth birthday, I was taken to a menagerie, and formally introduced to an elephant, a cageful of monkeys and three baby lions. The monkeys were very mischievous. They pulled my hair and snatched at the flowers in my hat. Their queer, cold hands made me shiver, and I did not like their teasing antics a bit.

"The elephant was an enormous fellow with a breath like the blast from furnace. He helped himself to a bag of peanuts I held in my hand, and swallowed them, bag and all. When I tried to feel his trunk, he objected and lifted it out of reach. His keeper assisted me to climb up on Jumbo's back, where I sat frightened, but proud of the adventure. I felt like a little boat afloat upon a great sea, and secretly I was glad to climb back to the firm earth again.

"The young lions were docile and playful. They rolled over on their backs and purred like kittens. I could not believe they would grow up into ferocious beasts of prey. But when I saw two of them years later, I was convinced. As I stood by their cage, I realized that my innocent, pretty, good-natured lion kittens had undergone a great change, not only in their physical appearance, but also in mind and disposition. The lioness was still slender, and more quiet than the male, which had developed into a powerful, aggressive creature with an imposing mane. His baby purr was now a roar that terrified me. I was not permitted to touch him even through the bars.


"I have, however, touched two grown lions since then, also Trilby, the famous lioness in the Washington Zoological Park. She was as gentle and as beautiful as a great Dane. She pressed her body against me affectionately and licked my hand. One lion, a splendid fellow, held out a huge paw to me in a friendly manner, let me feel his great head and even growled amiably for my entertainment. His keeper made him walk up and down the cage so that I might feel his stride."