Sibley Park

Welcome to the Greater Mankato on the Move Mobile History Tour featuring the famous Sibley Park Zoo.


Aside from the sprawling grand lawn, beautiful flower gardens, fountains and even a racetrack, one of the most popular attractions at Sibley Park was the zoo that started in 1907 with single bear. Over the years, the zoo grew into a sprawling wildlife menagerie featuring monkeys, goats, African pigs, prairie dogs, timberwolves, minks, llamas, deer, elk, bison, rabbits, ducks and chickens.

 

Perhaps the most interesting animals in the zoo were Mutt and Jeff, the lion-and-dog best friend pair who lived at Sibley Zoo in the 1930s. When Mutt, the lion, was born at the zoo in 1932, his mother refused him; so Park Superintendent Clarence Staley cared for him and gave him a litter mate in Jeff, the dog. The two lived and played together at the zoo without incident. The famed pair brought thousands of people to the Sibley Park zoo and received national acclaim. The St. Paul Como Park Zoo borrowed them in 1933, becoming so impressed with the duo the zookeeper asked to take them to the Chicago’s World’s Fair. His request was denied. The unlikely duo lived in harmony for 10 years until the lion died. 


Clarence Staley was Superintendent of the Parks for 22 years. He was recognized as the authority on animals for years moved in and about the animal cages at the zoo. On November 15, 1934, Staley entered the bear cage, the bears he had raised from cubs. He entered to retrieve a purse that a woman had dropped inside the cage and he was attacked and killed by the male bear. Both the male and female bears in the cage were also killed before Staley could be recovered. A flagpole on park grounds stands in his honor.

 

Tragedy struck again in both 1951 and 1965 when the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers overflowed their banks causing massive flooding in the park. In 1951, a few animals did not survive the flood, however the 1965 was much more severe and killed many of the zoo animals and left Sibley Park unrecognizable. This was the end of the Sibley Park Zoo. Today’s petting zoo featured farm animals – no more monkeys, lions or bears.


Visit BlueEarthCountyHistory.com to learn more.