Black Diamond (1898-1929) was an Indian elephant owned by the Al G. Barnes Circus.

Black Diamond
Black Diamond


Weighing nine tons, he was believed to be the largest Indian elephant in captivity. A good worker but prone to fits of temper, he was generally kept chained to two calm female elephants during parades through the towns the circus visited. On October 12, 1929, while being unloaded in Corsicana, Texas, Black Diamond went on a rampage, injuring his long-time former trainer, H. D. (Curley) Pritchett, and killing Pritchett's current employer, Eva Speed Donohoo (or Donohue).[1]

Ms. Donohoo was not the first person Black Diamond had killed, so after his recapture he was deemed too dangerous to continue with the circus and the decision was made to put him down. Numerous ideas were floated but his size made most of them unworkable; the final decision was to shoot him. As many as 50, perhaps more than 100, shots were required before Black Diamond died.

His mounted head, on display in a museum in Houston, Texas for many years, was eventually acquired by a local Corsicana businessman, Carmack Watkins, who had been a five-year-old boy in the crowd that day in October 1929.[citation needed] Allegedly, one of his feet was made into a pedestal for a bust of Hans Nagle, Houston's first zookeeper, the man who fired the final shot that brought Black Diamond down. Another one of his legs is on display in the old post office in the ghost town of Helena, Texas.

In 2006, singer/songwriter Al Evans wrote "Black Diamond's Song," a lament from the pachyderm's perspective.

In 1999, Curtis Eller's American Circus recorded "The Execution of Black Diamond," a retelling of the events of October 12, 1929.


  1. ^ "Black Diamond". Time magazine. October 28, 1928. Archived from the original on August 30, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-12. Curley Pickett has been a farm hand for the last two years in Corsicana, Tex. Before that he was an elephant trainer for the Al. G. Barnes circus where his special charge was Black Diamond, a land elephant. Last week Farm Hand Pickett, learning that the old circus was coming to town, invited his employer, Mrs. Eva Donohue, to see Black Diamond. ... Black Diamond spied them, gave Pickett a malevolent look, wrapped him in his trunk and tossed him over a box car. The nine-ton beast then smashed Mrs. Donohue to the ground, trampled the life out of her. When Pickett had been sent to the hospital, keepers held a council, wired to Circus Owner John Ringling for advice. Mr. Ringling condemned Black Diamond to death. ...

Further reading