By 1210 exotic animals were being kept at the western entrance to the Tower by England’s monarchs. The animals in the royal menagerie were often gifts from other kings and emperors.
Ownership of unusual, powerful animals like bears, elephants and lions reflected the sovereign’s great status.
The tradition of keeping exotic animals at the Tower probably began in the early 13th century. A variety of unusual beasts, birds and reptiles have belonged to the royal collection at different times. The animals were under the custody of a Keeper and lived in special cages within a compound later known as the Lion Tower (demolished 1853).
Menagerie visitors began to record their experiences from the 16th century and it remained popular until the early 19th century. After some accidental escapes, most animals were given to the Zoological Society and moved to Regent’s Park (later London Zoo) in 1831-32.
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