When Exotic Pets were the Accessory du Jour


19th Apr, 2012

Actress Phyllis Gordon with her cheetah.


“The big picture is that we are intimately bound to animals and it is satisfying to take them in and tame them. Subconsciously, we are a mishmash. We don’t know who we are, and so to simplify things, we predicate our individuality on animals.”

Dr. Yi-Fu Tuan, a cultural geographer at the University of Wisconsin 


‘There is constant tension in keeping wild animals. People want them wild, but they also want them to behave.”

-Dr. Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine


Audrey Hepburn and her baby deer



Salvador Dali and his Anteater coming out of the metro in Paris



Josephine Baker and her pet cheetah, 1931



A man with his pet dog and pet boar in 1955



Zorita the burlesque dancer takes her pet snake for walkies. In modern society, the stereotype is that males’ often prefer more predatorial animals as pets and and females like to adopt ”cute” creatures. Not this lady.



Frida Khalo with her pet Granizo, 1939



Pet Kangaroo, 1959 in New York



Breakfast with pet chimpanzee, 1971




Pet black leopard ‘plays’ in the back yard, 1971.


June Havoc and her pet toucan, 1950



Playing with pet leopard, 1971



Rupert the Rhine, 1960



Pet Ocelot, 1961



A man and his pet Caiman Trudy, UK, 1963



A Parisian woman and her cheetah, 1932.



This is a vintage copy of an exotic pet catalogue published by Stromberg.


As far as the history books go back, mankind has been trying to domesticate animals. Aboriginal cultures captured and tamed a wide range of mammals including birds, jaguar and bears. In the Amazonian tribes, women would even nurse their young animals from their own breasts. The wild pets would also help children learn about the animals. For royalty and the rich, keeping vast collections of exotic animals was away of showing off wealth and power.

”All animals exist independently and need respect. That is different from contemporary pet keeping, where the animal is reduced to a child.”

Dr. Eugene Hunn, an enthnobiologist at the University of Washington

Via Retronaut and New York Times



The Little French Girl who played with Wild Beasts



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