But all that changed in Lynn Street when one particular sale had an unusual range of items including a kangaroo, bear, a monkey, and a rat coypu.
Historian Graeme Harper takes up the story in his latest compelling contribution for the Hartlepool Mail.
"The date is Tuesday, October 14, 1902. The time is 1pm. There is a public auction about to take place in Lynn Street.
“Menagerie owner Sydney Braham is hoping to get his money back on a couple of lions that he now regrets buying. He’s got plenty of other animals listed for sale, which he has dutifully paraded in front of the potential buyers, but his prized lions are the most valuable.
“The struggling showman is £770 18s 7d in debt - £65,000 today.
“Braham owed the animal dealers Cross of Liverpool £377 for a selection of exotic creatures, most of which were already dead. He had lost £270 on lions, £150 on elephants and significant amounts on a tiger, a couple of leopards, a puma, a camel, a bear, a hyena, and a a job lot of marsupials.
“What has not died is up for sale. Any passing person with a few quid to spare can walk away with an unexpected pet at a once in a lifetime price.
“The lions – an adult male called Prince and its mate - had seen better days. Only one of them was trained for public display. There were also three cubs up for grabs.
“Cheaper options include a camel, puma or tiger. For those on an even more limited budget maybe a kangaroo, bear, a monkey, a jackal or a ‘rat coypu.’ Also being auctioned off are Braham’s collection of horses, wagons and carriages and anything else that might raise a few shillings.
“But if Braham was expecting to clear his debts, he was to be sadly disappointed. The sale failed to attract the big bids that he was desperately hoping for. Prince and the lioness fetched a measly £40, the three cubs £55. Lucky bidders bagged the leopard for £16, the puma for £5. Three wolves and a bear went for £5. A job lot of 4 monkeys for £2, and a kangaroo for a bargain 12 shillings.
“Sydney Braham was well-known in the animal trade.
“Braham had been born Simeon Abraham in 1854 in St Pancras London. He started as a printer compositor but then married into a family of fairground travellers.
“He became involved with the famous Bostock and Wombwell’s menageries as a manager. By the late 1880s he had struck out on his own and toured a menagerie under his own name.
“His later ventures saw him touring the ‘Sydney Braham Show’ which by 1905 included a ‘Temple of Magic’, a collection of exotic birds and a knife throwing act. Sydney Braham died in September 1913 in Shanagarry , County Cork, aged 55, whilst touring with his menagerie, run over by his own caravan.”