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Animals Died For Niagara Falls Entertainment

Updated on November 13, 2010

Niagara Falls Horseshoe Falls in 1849

Niagara Falls Horseshoe Falls created May 24, 1849
Niagara Falls Horseshoe Falls created May 24, 1849 | Source

Animals Died For Niagara Falls Entertainment

Good day readers. I know when most of us think of animal abuse for entertainment we think of dog fighting, cock fighting or circus abuse of our four legged friends. Few people realize that one of our most famous landmarks, Niagara Falls, may hold one of the first recorded records of animal cruelty for entertainment purposes.

Niagara Falls is located between Ontario, Canada and Niagara Falls, New York. Click here for a map of the area.

Here's a little history lesson about the local hotels, businessmen of the era, and the first reported case of America animal cruelty I've found on record. There may be earlier, but this is a really unusual case and I want to share it with all of you.

Until 1836, the Pavilion Hotel was the best in the area. William Forsyth, a ruthless businessman, had torn down the original Niagara Falls Hotel, which he had acquired in 1817. John Brown was his competition, building his hotel, the Ontario House Tavern in 1820. It was located south of the Pavilion Hotel. Both men also operated stagecoach service for the Niagara Falls tourists.

General Parkhurst Whitney, proprietor of the American Eagle Hotel, is a well known part of Niagara Falls history. The outlying islands at the falls are named after is four children. The Sister Islands, located 500 yards east of Horseshoe Falls, are named after his daughters Asenath (a-see-nath), Angeline and the third island is called Celinda Eliza. The fourth and smallest is known as Little Brother Island named Solon after his infant son.

In 1827 Whitney came up with a scheme to draw tourists to both sides of the falls.

This was the first of many stunts to take place at the Niagara Falls over the years. It's still one of the daredevil capital's of the world.

To construct the stunt, a retired ship "The Michigan" was purchased by the three men. The ship measured 16 feet from keel to deck. Then "ferocious animals" were to be placed on board ship and the ship sent over the falls with the animals on board. The men responsible even decorated the old ship to resemble a pirate ship, right down to typing dummies to the deck as pretend pirates.

Many of the spectators were allowed to go aboard ship beforehand and check out the dangerous cargo. These included a buffalo, two small bears, two raccoons, a dog and a goose.

The event promoters advertised the attraction beforehand and a crowd of roughly 10,000-30,000 (depending on which reference is to be believed) turned out to watch the "entertainment." This occurred on September 8, 1827 when the caged and tied animals were sent over Horseshoe Falls.

The real nightmare began when the boat passed the center of Horseshoe Falls and broke into splinters. The bears did manage to get loose as the vessel fell apart before going over the falls. They were able to swim to safety, along with the goose, who was caught at the bottom of the falls. All of the other animals died.

I'm glad I found this story to share with you. Not only for the historical impact, but because it's an interesting story. It shows us the darker side of humanity was present even in the early days of United States history. I find myself mad at everyone involved. From the "promoters" to the "spectators" who came for the thrill of the kill. There's no way anyone can convince me all involved didn't know beforehand these animals were going to die.

Sadly, humanity hasn't changed a lot since then. We hear of arrests every week where illegal dogfights and cockfights are busted up by police. We hear of abused circus animals. All of these animals suffering for man's pleasure.

I don't consider what happened at Niagara any different as far as humanity goes. This was animal abuse. Yet this animal cruelty didn't exactly make the history books. Niagara Falls wouldn't want to spoil it's magnificent history. The references are online. It's not like the people who promote the falls these days try to hide it. But they don't brag about it either.

Imagine the fear the animals experienced out there on the water. The roar of the falls in their ears. These poor helpless creatures didn't stand a chance or know what was happening to them.

Yet this was legal entertainment. This also goes to show how inaccurately a crowd can be judged. No one will ever really know how many people stood by and watched these animals die a cruel death. The point is, no one did a thing to save them.

Which also happens all too often in today's society.


Elisa Black-Taylor is a regular contributor to

Thoughts? Comments anyone? I'm leaving this one wide open for my readers.


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    • profile image

      Mr. West 

      2 years ago

      @Benjamin Copper

      @Realistic Person

      No one was downplaying that terrible part of our history. Obviously, that is also horrendous. We have the capacity to be appalled by more than one atrocity and this article is just focusing on a specific appalling event in our history. It's not claiming that one event is darker than all others. So there's no need to jump to unfounded conclusions.

    • profile image

      Realistic Person 

      5 years ago

      This post was informative, but also very ridiculous because you are valuing the lives of wild animals over the lives of humans when you spoke about there being a darker side to humanity even then. Just because this is one of the earlier known cases of animal abuse? What about slavery, killing off native Americans, war, insane greed? You are a traitor to your species.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I hope everyone involved with letting those poor animals die Burman in hell.people are so cruel to these creatures.

    • profile image

      Awesome Animals89 

      7 years ago

      Ummmmmmm........ The comments by jim bob, jmae, and, bjag, are,

      1. Very Racist.

      2. Cruel.

      3. Down Right HORRIBLE.

      Only EVIL people would think that that was funny.

      People who think that this story is funny, make me sick.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Gotta admit, that would be pretty coll to do.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      actually -this is very amusing. the bears did manage to swim free....but were then shot#!

    • profile image

      jim bob 

      7 years ago

      if it ain't for them dirty negroes and their fried chicken we wouldn't have this problem

    • profile image

      Benjamin Copper 

      7 years ago

      "It shows us the darker side of humanity was present even in the early days of United States history."

      Yes, because enslaving natives in Africa and bringing them overseas to work in the fields of America wasn't wrong.

    • Elisa Taylor profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisa Black-Taylor 

      8 years ago from The beautiful Carolina's

      Thanks everyone. I just write about what I think people need to know or things I'm interested in. This was a very interesting story. I watched a PBS special about it a few nights ago and it got my attention and I thought "hey, that was animal abuse." The people there probably didn't see it that way at all.

    • Lucky Cats profile image


      8 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      SICK!!! SICK beyond belief. Elisa, you have the strength of conviction and the ability to 'keep on keepin' on' in the face of such tragedy....why? Because, bless you, there is such a need to educate about, warn of, communicate regarding, and display the acts of heinous cruelty perpetrated upon animals by humans merely for entertainment, style, greed, ego, ignorance, arrogance and a feeling of superiority that, unfortunately, most of the human race seems to feel is rightfully placed in their laps. Thank you beyond measure, for being brave and smart!!!

    • laughing loon profile image

      Lynda -Bailey 

      8 years ago from South Los Angeles

      I just know some of my ancestors were there as we come from there. They were that kind. Poor animals. We get to pick on everybody. That was horrible.

    • profile image

      Michael Broad 

      8 years ago

      Another example of how humankind is so arrogant and distant from its origins. We are animals too. But we think that animals are different to us and that we can do with them as we please - at least some of us do.


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