The first record of wild animals at the Tower of London was in 1210 during the reign of King John. The monarch would receive the animals as gifts from other powerful rulers at the time, often to impress others or to show the wealth and strength of the ruler. The exotic animals were sent to London from all over the world and kept in the Tower of London as a symbol of power as well as for the curiosity and entertainment of the court.
King Henry III was particularly credited with establishing the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London. In 1235 he was given 3 lions as a wedding gift by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick III, he was also presented with a polar bear from King Haakon of Norway in 1251, the bear was given a particularly long leash to enable him to swim and catch fish in the Thames river. One of the more unusual animals was a large male African Elephant which was presented to King Henry III from King Louis IX of France in 1255, being the first of its kind to reach the shores of Britain, this large and unusual creature was said to cause quite a stir and the people of London flocked to catch a glimpse of the giant grey beast.