On 15 September 1885, the world’s most famous elephant, Jumbo, was killed by a train. Jumbo, the star attraction at P.T. Barnum’s travelling circus, was crossing the track at a station in Ontario, Canada. His handler, Matthew Scott, saw the danger. But ‘the elephant, fatally confused, trumpeted wildly and ran towards the oncoming train’. The force of the locomotive crushed Jumbo’s skull and drove one of his tusks ‘back into his brain’. But was this really an accident, or had Barnum, or Scott, or both, committed elephanticide?
When the engine hit him, Jumbo was dead within minutes. A bull African elephant is no match for a freight train. But if, for whatever reason, you needed to kill an elephant in 1885, there would be no better way than to engineer a train accident.