The Skye Zebra
A FEW weeks ago I wrote in this column about a hyena that escaped in the 1800s from a travelling circus near Loch Hourn and lived long enough around Glen Barisdale to terrorise the locals.
Shortly after my piece was published, a correspondent contacted me about a zebra of reputed Skye origin which appeared in a Glasgow circus in 1898.
The story goes that a Skyeman went to see Barnum and Bailey’s famous circus where he was surprised to see a tall man dressed in a scarlet coat and a tile hat standing in front of a large tent and shouting at the top of his voice: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, come in and see the Skye zebra. The only one of its kind in the world’. Being interested, he paid a shilling and entered. There indeed was an animal resembling a zebra. Its body was cunningly groomed, and its hoofs and tail were well camouflaged. Parts of its body was shaved and its horns, if it ever had any, were cut off.
On enquiring which part of Skye the beast came from, he was shown a stock book in which was recorded: ‘No. 40 – Skye Zebra, born 1893 in Trotternish, Isle of Skye. Bought from John Kelly, drover, for £10 in 1896. Insured, £1,000. The circus manager told him that the Skye Zebra was the best paying animal they had in the circus.
The same Skyeman shortly afterwards left for America, and when he was there he revisited Barnum & Bailey’s circus in 1904 and found the Skye Zebra still being exhibited and as popular as ever.