No, don’t worry, this is not another animals-take-over-the-city shutdown story, like goats rampaging through Wales or penguins letting loose in South Africa. There are more than 275,000 online pictures in the archive of the Hungarian National Photo Gallery, the MTVA. We selected a few interesting scenes from Budapest’s colourful past, some showing elephants casually strolling down the streets where we live.

The MTVA archives have documented life in Hungary since 1887, preserving historical and cultural memories for future generations. Working with their photo library, we have selected a few examples of unusual urban scenes involving animals over the last 130 years.

During the long, 102-day Siege of Budapest during the last winter of World War II, Budapest Zoo suffered serious damage as well: aquariums froze, the lion found refuge in an underground passage (according to urban legend), while many other creatures (like racka sheep, horses, deer, antelopes and even some kangaroos) ended up on the plates of the starving population.

The elephant house stayed largely intact, and while other parts of the zoo had to be renovated, this often served as venue for travelling circuses, who used to walk the animals on the streets of Budapest to promote the show. That is how the Grand Boulevard became filled with exotic animals in 1948, documented by the photography of Miklós Rév and László Rózsa.

The walks not only entertained the public, but provided the animals with a little exercise. Here we can see as elephants calmly leave the confines of the zoo, and start their stroll towards the neighbouring City Park.

Smaller but equally attractive zoo residents can be seen on this series from 1964: these chimpanzee infants from Guinea can be seen playing and posing on a cargo ship named Tokaj, as it lies at anchor at a free port in Csepel. The fast-learning two year olds quickly warmed to their new environment. Being so well behaved, the monkeys had the chance to go on multiple Budapest adventures – as the photo series reveals.

Today, live markets in Budapest – apart from carp sales at Christmas – are hard to come across, although they used to be pretty common back in the day. Some squares in the capital even got their names after the animals that used to be sold there, such as the former Hal tér (‘Fish Square’) or Marhavásár tér (‘Beef Market Square’), but today’s Kálvin tér and Kossuth tér also housed live markets in the past.

On the pictures by Ferenc Bereth, a Christmas poultry market enfolds from the year 1964, at Bosnyák tér market hall. Live or processed, people tried to take home the animals however they could – some birds even travelled home in handbags.

Sadly, horses also don’t feature on Budapest streets as much as before. In the 1950s, horse carriages still roamed around the city, although they mostly carried goods at this point rather than passengers. Soda-carrying horses were quite iconic, but they also helped in transporting other products, such as beer.

A familiar location can be seen on these pictures from 1957, as the loaded cart is stationery at Deák tér, a major transport hub today.

These pictures show a cart being packed with the office furniture of the Ministry of Economics, at Alkotmány utca 10. Horses were also used to carry coal in the colder seasons in the ’50s, while here you can see delivery horses from 1982.

Perhaps this photos series by Péter E Várkonyi is the most surprising of all. In the pictures taken in the 1980s, he captured the last riders who were still working with horse-drawn carriages. József Hegyeshalmi regularly transported firewood with his horses to Rákospalota (District XV) in 1982 and István Pálfi also transported soda here in his chariot.