Feeding frenzy! Man vs. elephant in new Coney eating spectacle

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Through the eons, the human race has never faced a challenge like this before — an eating contest against elephants!

But Coney Island is bracing for just such an unprecedented spectacle on July 3 with three brave — and perhaps naïve — souls daring to square off in a hot dog bun-eating contest against a trio of pachyderms from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“The human are hoping that their superior intellect comes into play. For instance they can dunk the rolls in water [to minimize their volume],” said George Shea, the president of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sports that is sanctioning the contest at the Ringling Brothers circus site on West 21st Street.

The human gustatory gladiators have another advantage over the gentle vegetarian giants. “Perhaps the elephants won’t understand the word ‘Go,’” Shea speculated.

The rules are simple. Whichever team eats more standard-issue frankfurter rolls in six minutes will be declared victorious. Individual honors will be dispensed on the single creature that stomachs the most starchy carbohydrates.

The odds are clearly in the elephants’ favor.

According to circus handlers, the beasts gorge on 200 pounds of food a day and can devour a loaf of bread, a staple of their diet, in one and a half seconds.

“When most people see elephants, they see the majesty of nature. To me, I see an arrogant animal that needs to be taken down a notch,” said an unabashedly pro-human Shea.

A win for mankind would be a major breakthrough in the world of inter-species eating contests. A Kodiak bear once thrashed six-time hot dog-eating champion Takeru Kobayashi.

The gluttonous grudge match between man and beast comes on the eve of the annual July Fourth Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, an all-human affair that will see a rematch between two-time world champ Joey Chestnut and Kobayashi.

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Pat Cuviello from CA says:
Education? Conservation? Not from Ringling Bros.
June 18, 2009, 1:50 pm
Craig from Coney Island says:
Not since the days of John Henry has there been such a brobdingnagian battle in which man's very essence of self is to be tested!
June 18, 2009, 11:12 pm
Patricia Hughes from Bay Ridge says:
It inhumane to feed elephants hot dogs. I have included some other facts about Ringling and other animal circuses for your consideration.


UPDATE: A six-week-long trial against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus on charges that it mistreats its Asian elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) concluded March 18, 2009. The lawsuit alleged that the use of the bullhook and the constant chaining of elephants wounds, harasses and harms the animals. The Judge has not yet rendered a decision in this precedent-setting case but the verdict is forthcoming. No matter the outcome, it is now undeniable that these magnificent animals suffer greatly in the name of entertainment. Click here for more.

Click here to watch CBS overview story of the lawsuit or read the story.

Click here to see Ringling's Treatment of Elephants.

Ringling Vet Tech Writes: Elephant Handlers Draw Blood

Ringling’s Vet-Tech, Deborah Fahrenbruck, wrote in an e-mail to owner Ken Feld, that an elephant handler, during a show, hooked an elephant under the trunk three times and behind the leg in an attempt to line her up. Fahrenbruck wrote that backstage she saw “blood in small pools dripped along the length of the rubber and all the way inside the barn” and stated “[W]e had an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked.” After telling Elephant Dept. Head, Troy Metzler, she was banned from the elephant barn.

Ringling Says: Hide Elephant Beatings

In 2004, after Bay Area TV stations showed video of a Ringling elephant handler stabbing and jabbing Angelica, a chained 7-year-old elephant, with a bullhook, Ringling’s Vet-Tech, Deborah Fahrenbruck suggested not to stop such attacks but to hide them by putting up a "tent wall." Ringling allows employees to hit and jab elephants and not consider this abuse.

Unnatural Acts - Stolen Lives ... The Sad Lives of Animals Used In Entertainment

Animals in circuses suffer isolation, monotony and deprivation. For most of their lives elephants are kept chained in place or penned in parking lots. Tigers, camels, zebras, horses, dogs and other animals are kept in small, cramped cages. Housing is built for ease of transportation, not for the comfort of the animals. Intimidation and physical violence are standard training and handling practices. The fact that all of this mistreatment is allowed testifies to the inadequacy of the laws regulating the care of animals in circuses.

Ringling claims that their use of elephants is "helping" to save the highly endangered Asian elephants. Saving species involves respect, and requires that habitat be preserved. The use of animals in circuses perpetuates the view that animals exist to be exploited by humans and don’t have lives of their own. The animals’ living conditions, the tricks they are forced to perform and the costumes they are dressed in have nothing to do with their natural behavior and are contrary to their biological needs as individuals and as species.

As Desmond Morris said, “[There is] something biologically immoral about keeping animals in enclosures where their behavior patterns, which have taken millions of years to evolve, can find no expression.” Circuses are counter-educational because animals are forced to live in unnatural conditions, "perform" unnatural acts thus misrepresenting who animals are or how they naturally live and act.

Circus Track Records

The Zuhrah Shrine contracts with the George Carden Circus each fall. The USDA has cited the George Carden Circus numerous times for failing to provide shelter from the elements, for inadequate and unsafe enclosures, for failing to provide proper veterinary care, and for failure to properly handle animals. Click here for a list of these citations.

08/31/05 Las Vegas, NV Gildah, Asian elephant on exhibit with Siegfried & Roy show, owned by Ringling Bros. Circus’s parent company Feld Entertainment, dies in her enclosure at Mirage Hotel-Casino. Gildah, who was housed alone, was 57. (Associated Press)

08/31/05 Springdale, OH Dillion, Capuchin monkey, is found next day after escaping from Hendricks Bros. Circus. He leapt from his trainer’s shoulder after train whistle frightened him. This is Dillion’s second escape. (The Enquirer,

08/25/05 Mt. Pleasant Township, PA Woman suffers sprained wrist and possibly torn ligaments when Asian elephant on exhibit at Westmoreland Fair grabs her wrist with her trunk after woman reaches to pet 8,200-pound pachyderm. Jewel is 1 of 2 elephants owned by Cole Bros. Circus and leased to Wambold’s Circus Menagerie, Florida-based act that travels country with several exotic animals. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, News-Journal Corporation)

07/20/05 Portsmouth, NH Circus truck pulling trailer with 2 elephants breaks down on Interstate 95 during trip from Maine to their performance in Massachusetts. (

04/13/05 Polk City, FL Tova, 36-year-old female Asian elephant, kicks her elephant trainer at Ringling Bros. Circus’s elephant breeding facility. Man is airlifted to hospital and suffers fractured pelvis and soft tissue wound. Tova is disciplined with temporary isolation from her peers. Bruce Read, vice president of animal stewardship for center, says, “This is normal elephant behavior.” (The Ledger)

01/31/05 Fort Wayne, IN Elephant fatally tramples her trainer while being loaded into truck. Trainer dies after being taken to hospital with critical chest injuries. Elephant, owned by Tarzan Zerbini Circus, is hired to perform in Fort Wayne Mizpah Shrine Temple’s annual circus at time of trampling. In similar incident, another employee of same circus is injured in 1995 when elephant knocks him to ground and stomps on his abdomen. (Associated Press)

12/05/04 Laredo, TX Bengal tiger with Great Circus of China bites and mangles circus worker’s hand after worker got too close to tiger’s cage. Woman is rushed to hospital and is recovering. (WISTV-10)

11/26/04 Evansville, IN Chimpanzee with Hadi Shrine Circus bites circus guest during pre-show picture event with guests and animals. Guest is treated at hospital for puncture wound and released. Circus officials report chimpanzee was unprovoked. (WFIETV-14)

11/06/04 Sarasota, FL 18-year-old circus worker is bitten by bear while trying to break up aggressive behavior among several bears at Big Cat Habitat. Man is flown to Bayfront Medical Center where he is listed in fair condition. (The Tampa Tribune)

11/03/04 Binghamton, NY Circus entertainer with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus falls 15-20 feet from “Sky Wheel” during performance at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. He is treated for minor injuries and released from hospital. (WBNG-TV,

09/28/04 Grand Rapids, MI Horse with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus is killed shortly after being unloaded from train in which animals traveled. Horse is struck by charging stallion while standing beside train while other horses are unloaded. Velasquez, 14-year-old palomino who usually leads unreined horse act, dies short time later. Show opens as scheduled. (Associated Press)

07/31/04 Queens, NY White tiger, Apollo, escapes from Cole Bros. Circus and wanders through park, across Jackie Robinson Parkway, and through nearby residential streets. Incident causes multi-car accident, and 4 adults and 1 child suffer minor injuries. 450-pound tiger is eventually coaxed back into his cage. (Associated Press)

07/14/04 Fresno, CA Lion with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus is found dead after crossing Mojave Desert in circus train, en route from Arizona to Fresno, CA. Circus is awaiting results of necropsy. Show opens as scheduled in Fresno. (KFSN-TV, Channel 30)

05/11/04 Dayton, OH 2 Norwegian Fjord horses traveling with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus die after they are hit by train while being unloaded from train in which they traveled. Horses are struck when freight train unexpectedly goes through area. 1 horse dies instantly, other is euthanized at scene. (Dayton Daily News)

04/25/04 Spokane, WA At least 10 cats and 1 bobcat are killed when travel trailer parked inside Spokane Veterans Arena for El Katif Shrine Circus catches fire. Owners are thought to be subcontractors who provide animals to circus. As firefighters try to control heavy smoke coming from arena, another bobcat runs through legs of firefighter to escape smoke. Security worker and circus employee are treated for smoke inhalation. (Spokesman Review)

08/05/03 Milwaukee, WI During Siberian tiger act at UniverSoul Circus, tigers are not willing to obey commands from trainer, who is only person in cage with them. Tigers do perform some tricks, along with some errant behavior and several threatening swipes at trainer. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

06/11/03 Brownsville, TX 2 baby zebras jump fence of traveling circus and make their way down southbound Expressway 83. Trucks with ropes corral zebras. Animal Control also sets up fences. Zebras are finally herded into back of truck. 1 police officer and 1 onlooker receive scratches when kicked by zebras. Zebras are treated for wounds. (KRGV-TV Channel 5 (ABC) Weslaco)
04/30/03 Columbus, OH Alligator bites animal handler at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus while being moved from public viewing pit outside arena. Handler suffers 6 punctures to right hand. Audience at performance is unaware of occurrence. (Columbus Dispatch)

03/21/03 Lincoln, NE Fort Worth, 7-year-old Shetland pony with Shrine Circus, bolts from auditorium back door during performance. Pony runs against traffic down middle of street before pedestrians catch him. (Associated Press, The New York Times)

02/03/03 Jacksonville, FL Chad, 450-pound Bengal tiger with UniverSoul Circus, squeezes through opening between his cage and holding cage and escapes. Climbing over car and over fence, Chad startles police officer and drive-in worker at nearby Wendy’s before circus workers coax him back inside cage. 100s of people witness Chad’s escape. (Associated Press, The Florida Times-Union, WJXT-TV Channel 4 (IND) Jacksonville)

08/00/02 San Jose, CA Frightened zebra outside Ringling Bros. Circus dashes down public street, endangering himself and bystanders. Fortunately, no one is injured during animal’s rampage. 2 years ago, 2 zebras escaped from same circus on same street. (In Defense of Animals)

06/19/02 Menomonie, WI Tory and Mary, 2 elephants performing with Shrine Circus, bolt out of circus tent during show, scattering crowds. Mary hikes 2 miles through town and is recaptured at University of Wisconsin-Stout campus when trucks block her route. 1 child is injured, and elephants damage door at park and cause $600 in damage to city truck. Shriners had contracted with George Carden Circus for event. (Associated Press)

05/10/02 Sacramento, CA Tiger refuses to return to cage following performance of Circus Gatti during Ben Ali Shrine Circus, prompting evacuation of spectators from arena. Both Sacramento police and SWAT teams are called and dispatched to scene. Tiger eventually tranquilized and returned to cage. (Sacramento City Police Report)

03/13/02 Easley, SC Tonya, elephant belonging to Robert Childress and used in various circuses, escapes control of her handlers while she is loaded into trailer, flees into nearby woods, and is recaptured with assistance of police. This is 4th time that Tonya has run amok (see 06/21/00, 02/16/98, and 08/28/97). (Associated Press)

10/27/01 Charlotte, NC 2 elephants leased by Hawthorn Corporation to Circus Vazquez rampage through church. 2 church members are nearly trampled, and children are quickly ushered to safety. Elephants crash into church through glass window, break and buckle walls and door frames, and knock car 15 feet, causing estimated $75,000 in damages. Elephants suffer cuts and bruises. 1 elephant had rampaged twice before (see 07/10/95 and 05/19/95) (Charlotte Observer and Associated Press)

03/25/01 Allentown, PA Poisonous cobra bites snake charmer in front of crowd of about 500 people during performance of Royal Palace Circus. Man rushed to hospital for emergency treatment. (The Morning Call)

06/21/00 Washington, PA Young elephant with Circus Hope, apparently disturbed by several children playing toy horns, walks away from her trainers in parking lot of shopping center. Through combined efforts of trainers, police, and security patrol, animal is quieted and led back to her tent. (Observer-Reporter)

06/07/00 Loves Park, IL Police shut down 2 lanes of highway while they try to corral 10 ponies loose from Sterling & Reid Circus. No injuries reported to ponies or residents. (Rockford Register Star)

06/02/00 Hartford, CT 2-month-old colt with National Hispanic Circus runs loose in parking lot and collides with slow-moving car. Animal is euthanized after determining that leg is broken beyond medical help. (Hartford Courant)

04/20/00 Yucca Valley, CA Elephant with Culpepper and Merriweather Circus breaks loose following performance, steps on circus ticket-taker and wanders down local street before being captured by circus handlers. Ticket-taker suffers possible broken hip. After elephant recaptured, 3 circus horses get loose and are returned by workers. (Associated Press)

04/02/00 Metairie, LA Bear traveling with Sterling and Reid Bros. Circus topples out of circus trailer and onto Interstate 10, stalling traffic for 3 hours while wary motorists contain animal and wait for help. (The Times-Picayune)

01/26/00 Riverview, FL Elephant at winter facility of Ramos Family Circus breaks away from tether to tree and attacks and stomps to death female family member. Other elephant at compound involved in 02/21/99 incident at Poughkeepsie, NY. (St. Petersburg Times)

04/24/99 Duluth, MN Elephant traveling with Tarzan Zerbini International Circus breaks free of rear shackle and seriously injures circus worker. (Duluth News-Tribune)

02/21/99 Poughkeepsie, NY Elephant in Hanneford Circus escapes ring and charges toward crowd. 3 people injured while fleeing. (Poughkeepsie Journal)

11/21/98 Chicago, IL Tiger with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus escapes from cage and seriously wounds animal trainer. (Associated Press)

02/16/98 Mentor, OH Circus elephant panics at high school, runs off for quarter mile, damages police car. (Associated Press)

02/09/98 Lincolnton, NC Leopard attacks trainer during Royal Palace Circus show. (Charlotte Observer)

01/07/98 St. Petersburg, FL Tiger with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus grabs trainer by head and drags him around ring, inflicting severe head injuries. (Reuters)

06/28/97 Seagoville, TX Man who enters animal area for Clyde Bros. Johnson Circus is attacked by elephant and suffers broken arm and dislocated shoulder.

05/07/97 Carrollton, PA Tiger with Frazen Bros. Circus kills trainer in front of 200 kids. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

06/14/96 Casper, WY Elephant with Jordan World Circus frightened by horse and knocks down and repeatedly kicks her trainer. Elephant giving rides at time at Central Wyoming Fairgrounds. 1 child falls off elephant during incident. (Casper Star Tribune)

03/05/96 Comfort, TX 2 elephants from King Royal Circus are scheduled to race down Highway 473 carrying riders from local high school. Before race begins, 1 rider falls off elephant’s back and suffers 2 broken ribs and arm and wrist injuries. Trainers move elephant away to avoid further injuries. Race continues when another rider volunteers and both riders take turns riding 2nd elephant. (The Boerne Star)

09/30/95 Indianapolis, IN Lion with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus bites off index finger of woman who puts hand in cage. (Associated Press)

07/10/95 Queens, NY 2 elephants with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus become agitated and go on rampage, triggering panic among spectators. 7 spectators treated for minor injuries. (Associated Press)

05/19/95 Hanover, PA 2 elephants with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus go on rampage at mall, smashing store windows and damaging cars. 1 elephant had killed woman in 1985. (Gettysburg Times)

05/06/95 Bronx, NY Horse traveling with Circus With a Purpose “goes berserk” and tips over children’s cart, causing panic. 20 children and 2 adults treated for injuries. (Newsday)

02/06/95 Fort Wayne, IN Elephant with Tarzan Zerbini Circus steps on circus employee, causing crushed pelvis. Incident occurs as workers load animals and equipment following close of the circus. (News-Sentinel)

10/10/94 Riley County, KS 3-year-old girl trying to feed elephant with King Royal Circus is grabbed around neck by elephant, causing minor injuries.

08/20/94 Honolulu, HI Tyke, elephant with Circus International, kills her trainer, injures circus groom and dozen spectators, and rampages through city before she is shot to death by police. (Associated Press)

08/04/94 Laie, HI Elephant with Circus International knocks down metal barrier at arena, pinning family to bleachers. (Associated Press)

07/18/94 New York, NY Elephant with Moscow Circus attacks translator offstage at ABC’s Live with Regis and Kathie Lee television show. Woman suffers skull fracture, broken ribs, and punctured lung. (Associated Press)

04/25/94 (reported) Muskegon, MI During intermission of Tarzan Zerbini Circus, elephant rides are offered. 1 elephant falls into passenger loading platform, emptying passengers underneath platform, and bending it. 3 children are injured. (The Circus Report)

04/06/94 Salt Lake City, UT While giving rides at Jordan Circus, elephant picks up, tosses, and steps on trainer, causing internal organ damage. 2 children riding elephant are unhurt. (Associated Press)

06/05/93 Fishkill, NY Elephant with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus pins man against trailer at circus grounds and crushes him to death. (New York Times)

05/06/93 Las Vegas, NV Lion attacks Circus Vargas employee feeding group of 3 lions at Las Vegas residence.

05/05/93 Williston, FL Elephant at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus compound knocks down trainer, stomps on chest, kills him. (Associated Press)

04/21/93 Altoona, PA Tyke, described in 08/94 incident, injures young girl while charging through arena during Great American Circus performance. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

04/17/93 Little Rock, AR Siberian tiger with Jordan Brothers Circus escapes into stands during Shrine-sponsored circus performance. 13-year-old girl is bitten, causing 7 puncture wounds on back of leg. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

02/24/93 Norfolk, VA Trainer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is mauled when breaking up fight between 2 lions. (Virginian-Pilot)

11/30/92 Pahrump, NV Tiger attacks Circus Vargas trainer, causing severe injuries.

10/14/92 Bloomington, MN Before performance of Zuhria Shrine Circus, elephant rides are given. After several trips with children and adults on its back, elephant loses balance and grabs trainer with mouth. 1 child suffers scrape on leg. Trainer suffers gash on upper leg and is taken to hospital. Elephant rides are again performed at intermission and after show. (United Press International)

07/14/92 Lafayette, IN Elephants are being led around ring at Tarzan Zerbini Circus when 1 stops and next elephant bumped into 1st, knocking it into barricade, which topples into crowd. 9 people are injured and 1 woman is taken to hospital suffering from panic attack. (Washington Times)

02/01/92 Palm Beach, FL Elephant with Great American Circus rampages and charges midway in circus tent while giving rides. Woman and 4 children taking ride are rescued but elephant hits police officer, uses her trunk to throw him twice to ground. Animal is shot and killed by police. 12 people are injured during panic, none seriously. (Miami Herald)

05/13/91 Lion with Kessler Bros. Circus puts head of animal trainer in her mouth, suffocating man before animal is shot and killed.

04/18/91 Wilkesboro, NC Leopard with Great American Circus jumps out of ring and bites 3-year-old girl on neck. (Charlotte Observer)

06/20/90 Miami, FL Circus elephant with Hanneford Family Circus is startled by passing car while being led to appearance at swap shop. Elephant falls on her handler who is crushed to death while animal struggles to get back on her feet. (Miami Herald)

06/08/90 Reading, PA Elephant with the Great American Circus goes on rampage, injuring her trainer and 1 spectator. (Reading Eagle)

Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is--whether its victim is human or animal--we cannot expect things to be much better in this world...
-- Rachel Carson

"People are equal partners with the plants and animals, not their masters who exploit them."
Haida Gwaii, Traditional Circle of Elders

"All things are connected." Chief Seattle
June 19, 2009, 7:08 am
Barbara from IL says:
Once again Ringling puts spectacle before health. Sure, elephants can eat bread, but it isn't nutritious. They need whole grains, fruits and vegetables along with hay and fresh water. Bread is easy and cheap, but it's a crappy substitute for proper care.

This is a vulgar stunt, nothing more.
June 19, 2009, 8:19 pm
sandra from boerum hill says:
Need we make elephants even more of a spectacle? Where in nature is the staple of their diet bread? Animals do not have a choice. Let them be free.
June 19, 2009, 11:27 pm
michelle from NY says:
Hey Patricia Hughes, I like what you posted but the elephants are only eating buns (which are undoubtedly not good for elephants) and not hot dogs.

P.S. Check it out!!
Ringling is exposed
June 21, 2009, 3:37 am
Readerama from BK says:
Yes, they're clearly just eating ROLLS.
Elephants will eat just about anything that isn't meat, but seems interesting. Since they have vegetarian digestive tracts: If something isn't all that digestible -- or even foodlike -- it'll come out the 'other end' virtually intact.
June 21, 2009, 1:40 pm
Katie from Staten Island says:
This is animal cruelty in one of its worst forms. That elephant doesn't even have a choice whether or not to participate. I don't care if two dumb humans want to stuff themselves full of crap, but leave the innocent animals OUT of this. Anyone who goes to watch this is insane and is out to hurt animals.
June 23, 2009, 4:01 pm
Kenny Boyer from Las Vegas says:
FYI an offshore sportsbook call does have odds on this as well as the Hot Dog Eating contest, The Elephants are 20/1 Fav
June 26, 2009, 4:37 pm
Tamra from Arizona says:
Mike, are you kidding me?

Would you please stop writing about Ringling Bros because you clearly do not value the impact you can have on others through what you choose to write about.

Only an uneducated person would find this story intriguing and worthy of attention.
June 28, 2009, 3:03 pm
kat in your hat from Manhattan says:
Lowbrow exploitation of endangered animal.
July 3, 2009, 11:49 am

Comments closed.

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