Zoos have not only been an important source of recreation in modern times, but they have been a part of the human culture for thousands of years. What began as places of entertainment for certain privileged individuals have become places of not only recreation, but also for education, conservation and research. Possibly the earliest zoo collection was in Arpachiya, which is modern day Iraq, in approximately 4500 BC, where pigeons were kept for exhibition (Gold, 1988). The clearest record of early animal exhibition is approximately 2500 BC. The Mohenjo-Daro civilization in India used elephants for work and for exhibition. The Egyptians used animals for many domestic purposes, including exhibition, but also for worship. The types of exotic animals placed on display included antelope, lion, baboon, and mongoose (Fisher, 1967; Sedgwick, 1988).
While these earliest zoos kept animals for entertainment, the Greek's began to seriously study animals from 700 BC to 400 BC. Aristotle did extensive research on animals, and wrote a book entitled, The History of Animals in about 340 BC. One of his star pupils, Alexander the Great, acquired such an appreciation for animals that he brought many animals back to Greece from his campaigns to the East (Fisher, 1967).
For hundreds of years before the Roman Empire, animals were primarily used for entertainment of royalty, or presented as a tribute to rulers. The Romans initially observed and displayed their animals, as did their predecessors. However, they eventually used animals for public entertainment by staging fights between animals, fights between gladiators and animals, and the spearing of animals by the viewing audience. This means of entertainment quickly depleted the area's animal population, requiring large animal collection trips to replenish the supply (Fisher, 1967; Zuckerman, 1980).
For nearly 400 years, no notable collections of animals were recorded. It was not until the 12th century that records indicate that King Henry I of England collected several different kinds of animals in Wookstock, near Oxfordshire. The different animals included lions, leopards, lynx, camels and owls (Fisher, 1967; Gold, 1988).
The development of zoos did not reach America until 1864, when the Central Park Zoo in New York opened. This zoo allowed animals to be viewed by individuals unable to visit them in their native environment. Before the end of the century, 17 more zoos were opened. By 1937, there were 57 zoos in the United States, making it a leader in the zoological world (Livingston, 1974). Zoos have been a great source of entertainment and recreation for many centuries.