Gargantua (gorilla)

Gargantua (1929 - November 1949) was a captive lowland gorilla who was famous in his lifetime and has been credited with saving the Ringling Brothers circus from bankruptcy. An acid scar on his face gave Gargantua a snarling, menacing expression, and the circus management attracted attention to him by emphasizing, in their publicity, his alleged hatred of humans. He was also claimed to be the largest gorilla in captivity. Gargantua was captured as a baby in Africa, and was known as "Buddy" for years. After he was sold to Ringling Brothers by his previous owner, Gertrude Lintz, he was renamed after the literary character Gargantua for his large size (the literary Gargantua was a giant) and because the name sounded more frightening. He had a "mate" named Toto, but apparently never showed any interest in her. She was nevertheless advertised by the circus as "Mrs Gargantua". The film Buddy, starring Rene Russo, is very loosely based on the early life of Gargantua/Buddy and another of Mrs Lintz's gorillas, Massa. Gargantua was born wild in the Belgian Congo in approximately 1929. In the early-1930s, the gorilla was given to a Captain Arthur Phillips as a gift from missionaries in Africa. The captain was fond of him and called him "Buddy". He was kept aboard his freighter and became popular with most of the crew. One sailor, however, drunk and seeking revenge on the captain's strictness, threw nitric acid in Buddy's face. This did not kill the gorilla but the attack almost blinded him and left both mental and physical scars - leading to much more

aggressive behaviour. Unable to deal with this aggression, the captain gave Buddy to Gertrude Lintz, a wealthy eccentric who looked after sick animals in Brooklyn. Her husband, Dr Bill Lintz, diagnosed Buddy with double pneumonia. Mrs Lintz treated the little gorilla back to health, including chewing his food for him, and along with her kennel-man, Richard "Dick" Kroener, trained and raised Buddy. She cared for Buddy, and other apes, as her children and even arranged for plastic surgery on the scar, leaving Buddy with a permanent sneer. She was known to drive around Brooklyn with Buddy, dressed in clothes, in the passenger seat. This behaviour backfired, however, in 1937. Buddy, frightened by thunder, broke out of his cage and climbed into bed with his "mother" for comfort. Buddy was about 460 lb (210 kg) at this time. Mrs Lintz contacted John Ringling shortly thereafter. Gargantua died in November 1949 of double pneumonia. A necropsy performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital revealed that Gargantua had been suffering from several conditions at the time of his death, including skin disease and four impacted and rotten wisdom teeth. His skeleton was donated to the Peabody Museum in 1950 but is now only displayed on special occasions. [edit]Physical characteristics Sources report Gargantua's weight variously as 550-600 lb. The seven-year old Gargantua was described as 460 lb (210 kg) when first displayed. His standing height was said to be 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in). Lowland Gorillas usually only reach 440 lb (200 kg) in the wild.