Our History

In 2021 we celebrate 125 years of operation. That’s no small feat and we’re grateful to our guests, members, City leaders, staff and board of directors who have helped us grow into the world class zoo you know today. Below are a few videos that tell the story of Denver Zoo in slightly different ways. We hope you watch one or all and enjoy seeing something familiar, but also learn something new about us.

125 Years of Love

Denver Zoo has a storied history. From our early days to the celebration of our 125th anniversary.

Colorado Experience

Rocky Mountain PBS Documentary

Denver Zoo was to be the subject of the next “Colorado Experience” on Rocky Mountain PBS. It premiered Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 7 p.m. MST.

The documentary tells the history of Denver Zoo. Starting as a small collection of caged animals in 1896, to our transofmation into an institution that is recognized worldwide. Witness a century of the Denver Zoo's evolution in both science and design to become the institution we know today.

Denver Zoo

A 125-Year Legacy That Began With a Bear

Denver Zoo was featured by “I Am Denver,” the City of Denver’s video storytelling project. From our humble one-bear beginnings to our consistent innovation in habitat development and animal welfare, this piece covers the Zoo’s 125-year evolution from entertainment attraction to undisputed conservation leader.

A Force of Nature

125th Anniversary Gala

In September, 2021, Denver Zoo hosted the Force of Nature Gala, celebrating our colorful history and a couple of very generous families who, for generations, have supported us and helped build our most exciting habitats.

Denver Zoo Timeline

It all began with a special gift to the mayor of Denver, a black bear cub that came to live at City Park.

A Special Gift

It all began with a special gift to the mayor of Denver, a black bear cub that came to live at City Park. Early visitors to the growing zoo enjoyed watching animals like monkeys, elk, bison and birds. With the opening of Bear Mountain in 1918 Denver Zoo became the first American institution to benefit from Carl Hagenbeck’s revolutionary zoo concept, that people should see animals at eye level in natural habitats without bars or fences. This ground-breaking exhibit features artificial rock formations produced using plaster casts from natural cliffs near Morrison, Colorado and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.