KLM Animal Transport – Back in the Day

The first large animal that KLM transported was a stud bull. That was in 1924. One year earlier, KLM had transported some baby chicks and bees. That last shipment in particular intrigues me. How would they have done that? I’m sorry to say I can’t find any further information about it—only that it happened. However, there are plenty of examples of KLM animal transport complete with a story attached. Here are a few.

klm500449 -1 LOGO

Nico V

Back to the stud bull. He was called Nico V (the fifth). He was expensive and young. That last factor was especially important—a fully grown bull would not have fit into the aircraft. After all, a Fokker F.III is just a tiny thing. But why would you jam a young bull into an aeroplane and take it somewhere in France? It turned out to be something of an emergency. There was a foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in Belgium and, seeing how grave the danger of infection was, they didn’t want to take any chances. So it was to be KLM and, as always, the company saw an opportunity. Under the watchful eyes of the cattle-breeding community and the press, the Fokker took off from Waalhaven Airport with a bull on board. Animal stewards did not yet exist. For the occasion, the cattleman’s son went along to make sure all went well. And, in so doing, KLM became a livestock transporter.

1948 Beren voor Den Haag 700 jaar van Bern LOGO


KLM has had numerous opportunities to carry animals. In 1948, The Hague celebrated seven centuries of existence. Its sister city, Bern, thought up a lovely present for the occasion—two baby bears. It was a fitting gift in that the Swiss capital’s coat of arms bears, well, a bear. The man who accompanied the animals on their trip from Switzerland was a specialist. That was made clear by the title on his hat: Bärenwärter and Gardien des ours. Most likely, the man came from the city zoo, so the gift was in good hands. The bears made their new home in Wassenaar Zoo, which was located close to The Hague.


Animal transport grew particularly strongly just after the Second World War and the variety of species grew as well. That called for a new specialisation. Every animal needs its own specific form of care, and that calls for specific knowledge. At first, there was no special staff trained in seeing to the animals, in some cases on long trips. All that changed in 1950. KLM brought in official animal stewards, as you can see in the photo, on the right. They were hired to accompany the animals, make them comfortable, and care for them during their travel—short or long. The animal steward in the photo provided these two donkeys with professional attention. This was in 1951.



In some cases, it went much farther than a bed of hay and pat on the head. KLM has transported dolphins on a number of occasions. But that’s a horse of a different colour. In this photo from 1965, the seagoing mammals were given their own hammocks. The dolphins were transported from the US to the Netherlands for the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, a few hours east of Amsterdam. To make sure that their trip went as comfortably and calmly as possible, they were brought onboard last and unloaded first. Speed was a necessity, but so was water. The hammocks had special slots for their fins and the dolphins were wrapped in wet towels which were refreshed often, and their carers kept the rest of their skin wet at all times to prevent dehydration.

And I haven’t even discussed the pandas, tigers, elephants, Olympic horses—even a young giraffe—and the countless dogs and cats that KLM has welcomed and cared for in its history.

Sounds familiar?

It’s quite possible you’ve heard or read this before. We’ve posted this blog in May, 2015. So this actually is a repost. But let’s be honest: do you ever get tired of history about aviation? ;-)

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Walter Fokkens

Volgens mij kan je hier een leuke serie van maken!
Dank je.
Vr. Groet, walter

Frido Ogier

Zeker Walter, genoeg voorbeelden en foto’s gevonden in de archieven. Ik denk dat ik er zeker een keer op terugkom!




Wow. I heard you have a pet hotel at Schiphol. I take it Animals/Pets still play a big part of KLMs day to day operation. Is this a reason you operate the 747 combis?

Transporting the Dolphins must have been a logistical nightmare!

Nice blog as always!

Frido Ogier

Dear Stephen,

We call it our animal hotel at Schiphol :-) and beside pets, KLM transports a lot more, like horses. I’m not sure that the reason KLM operates a 747 combi, but it will not the first time that beside our passengers some horses made the same flight in this aircraft. The dolphin transport was quite an operation that needed special knowledge. We did it at least three times.

Best regards,



Jammer dat ik de foto’s niet eerder had. Heb net een spreekbeurt gehouden over de KLM met een onderdeel van de dierentransport. Mijn wens is ooit nog eens een keer achter de schermen te mogen kijken bij jullie, of misschien wel stage te mogen lopen.

Frido Ogier

Dag Mariëtte,

Ja, inderdaad erg jammer. Ik weet niet precies wat de mogelijkheden zijn voor een kijkje achter de schermen. Ik weet wel dat niemand er zo maar naar binnen kan en wat stage betreft kan ik het me voorstellen dat dat zeer interessant is. Misschien moet je er eens een briefje aan wagen?



Sanya Pathanibul

Suited up to be a farmer.

Roseli Aparecida Wostog

Hello, KLM (Blog).
Post Comment. Animal Transport – Back in the Day.
Oh, lovely!. Good bye.
Roseli A Wostog. Thank you. Brazil.

Lolita M. Balboa


Hans Walrecht

Dag Frido,

Ik geef regelmatig een rondleiding in de 747 op Aviodrome. Heb je ook een mooi voorbeeld van een heeeeel groot dier dat ooit achterin de PH-BUK combi is vervoerd?

met vriendelijke groet,

p.s. het cadeau van de Zwitsers deed mij denken aan een beroemde quote uit Yogi Bear:

“The bear can barely bear it!”

Frido Ogier

Beste Hans,

Ik heb even gezocht en voor zover ik dat kan nagaan, kan ik je geen voorbeelden geven van hele grote dieren behalve Olympische paarden. Daarnaast is wel een bijzonder dier met dit toestel vervoerd, namelijk een sabelantilope. Misschien is dat wel leuk om te vertellen tijdens een rondleiding?



Verito Gonzalez

Saludos, pregunto si la también la información de esta pagina esta en español…..Gracias….

Joseph B. Cassidy, III

I wish that you could provide more information concerning the transport of the bees. Today, it would not seem so amazing, since technology has advanced to the point that most anything is possible, given the right arrangements. But back in 1923, it would be such an amazing feat.

Rick van der Bijl

My father was pilot on the flight with the dolphins. Later we were given a vip tour in Harderwijk, which I unfortunately cannot remember as I was only 3 years old then but have pictures somewhere.
Many animals were flown to races, olympics etc. I was told.
Job well done KLM, I can say.

Mechelien Bonis

Zijn er toevallig vacatures voor een dierenverzorgster die de dieren op jullie vluchten kan begeleiden en verzorgen? voor iemand die daar ook opleiding in gehad heeft….?

Nico Kuiper

This brings back some memories of the stories of one of my fathers early flights. As a flight engineer he was stationed in Batavia, Indonesia. On the 28th of april 1947 the crew was scheduled for an animal flight from Batavia to Idlewild Airport, New York. The C54 Skymaster was packed with animals: to be precise 814 animals were embarked: 600 monkeys, two baby elephants, 3 tigers, 2 panthers, some pythons and even 10 frogs. Also called “the flying zoo”. It took them six days before they reached New York! The flying menagerie was sheperded by miss Genevieve Cuprys, 24 years old, who was an animal scout. She was also called “Jungle Jenny”. A nickname she didn’t particully liked. The story tells that on some point during the flight the tigers were escaped…. Amazing times, back in 1947. I have some precious photos from this flight, also one with my father, ‘jungle Jenny’ and a baby monkey next to the Skymaster.
Source: diary L.A. Kuiper, flight engineer KLM



peter van dijk (pietje)

zie http://www.tilburgsdierenpark.nl

heb het allemaal van dichtbij meegemaakt de fa van dijk heeft honderden dierentransporten meegemaakt zou graag nog meer horen over de stewards en klm mensen van toen zoals uncle todd harrye mens en roel wigman etc etc

Jagath Rupasiri

KLM is taking care not only of passenger transportation but also of animal transportation.That’ why KLM has become a great Airline in the world. All the best.

Jestine Nittler

very interesting topic, outstanding post.

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