The Animal Lottery - Brazils Jogo do Bicho

You may be under the impression that we have completely lost our marbles, saying “Animal Lottery,” and no it’s not some sort of card game, or charity for animals either. After writing about the Oz Lotto winner whose dream to open an animal refuge, I stumbled upon The Animal lottery. The Animal Lottery is in fact a fully-fledged lottery just like the Mega-Sena in Brazil. Curious? The carry one reading and find out all about it…

Just like the Mega-Sena lotto game in Brazil, the Animal Lottery, a rough translation of the Brazilian ‘Jogo do Bicho’, was not developed by governments or heads of states.

Let’s start at the beginning and take a look at the history of the famous lottery and how it came to be and why it became so incredibly popular in that country.

Jogo do Bicho, Animal lottery, lotteries in Brazil

This unusual lottery was created in a small zoo on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. As you can imagine it started off from humble beginnings, but it quickly grew to become one of the most popular lotteries in the history of Brazil. It did so well that it thrived for over a hundred years despite the efforts of successive governments to shut it down.

As you can imagine, the owner of the zoo, colourful character by the name of Baron João Batista Viana Drummond, didn’t just have an entrepreneurial flair for creating a zoo, he also had a good head for figures and making money.

During the years he became good friends with the popular Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil. This friendship resulted in not only the honorary title of Baron for Mr Drummond. The emperor allowed Baron João Batista Viana Drummond to purchase prime lands on the western edge of Rio – and next to the Imperial Gardens for a very low price. This friendship came in handy when he was granted a licence to import exotic animals to Brazil.

As his collection grew he estabished the first zoological gardens in Brazil in 1888, on the same site where the Rio Zoo stands today.

The Zoo Animal Lottery

Unfortunately ticket sales for his zoo were rather slow which is why he devised an ingenious method to attract more customers. In 1892 he came up with a lottery game, ‘Jogo do Bicho,’ the Animal Lottery, based around the 25 different animals which he had in the zoo at that time, with each of them representing 4 numbers from 00 to 99.
So for example the ostrich was 01/02/03/04, the cobra 33/34/35/36, and so on.


Jogo do Bicho, Animal lottery, lotteries in Brazil, Zoo lottery

The Lottery worked with a customer buying a ticket to enter the zoo, and the last two digits of the ticket corresponded with a particular animal.

At the start of the day a small cloth-covered cage was hung from a mast beside the zoo gates, and inside the cage was a symbol representing that day’s randomly chosen animal.

When it came to early evening, the cloth would be removed to reveal the animal of the day, and all the fortunate ticket holders could collect their cash prizes.

The prize was worth 20 times the admission fee.

It was an ingenious idea as he got customers to stay much longer to see if they had won, and while they hung around at the zoo, they would end up spending their money on food and souvenirs, meaning that the Baron was able to turn a pretty penny from this creative lottery.

Soon people started buying tickets without even entering the zoo – often more than one - and people around the city could be seen selling tickets for this animal lottery game.

This however, started to cause problems, since gambling was illegal in Brazil at the time. In the beginning the police had given the green light for the project as a way to encourage visitors to the zoo, but as the Animal Lottery got more and more popular the authorities found themselves in a bit of a predicament.

Just like today’s online lotteries where there are many loopholes enabling online lottery sites to continue offering international lotto games to those not residing in the country of the lottery played, as these fall under the category of games of chance, so too did the Animal Lottery continue to be operated by the zoo for some years to come. Unfortunately in 1941 the law expressly prohibited games of chance which included the famous Jogo do Bicho.

By then, however, Jogo do Bicho had long since spread far beyond the confines of the Rio Zoo. The game captured the popular imagination in Brazil, not just in Rio but in towns and cities all over the country.

One of the reasons for its popularity was the low cost of a ticket, as people could buy entry for very low stakes. Apart from offering freed slaves and immigrants to big cities the dream of a lottery win, it also provided jobs in the sales and distribution networks which built up around the local versions of the Animal Lottery.

The game also tapped into the superstitions and mythos around Brazilian culture, and often tickets were bought based on dreams of a particular animal the night before a draw.

Jogo do Bicho is in fact still played to this day and in many ways has become a part of Brazilian culture. Operators of the lottery started to donate some of the proceeds to Samba Schools, leading to an association of the lottery with the famous Carnival in Brazil in the eyes of many.

When it comes to football in Brazil, owners of football teams have also been bicheiros (lottery bosses), linking the country’s most famous sport to the lottery. In the 1920s, before local footballers were paid wages, fans would organise funds which came from the Bicho game to pay them according to the performance of the team.

Here at you will be pleased to know that you too can play Brazil’s most popular lotto game, the Mega-Sena, giving you the chance win a life-changing amount of money. Low cost stakes and massive jackpot prizes make this Brazilian lottery a worthy heir to the tradition of lottery gaming in this beautiful country.

Let your chicken choose your lottery numbers

Billy Gibbons won a jackpot after his pet chicken, Kiev, walked all over his calculator, generating a random selection of numbers. Looking at the calculator he decided to play the numbers on the lottery.

After winning the jackpot he renamed Kiev, Lucky.

Paul the Octopus

Paul the octopus famously predicted a string of winners in the 2010 Football World Cup culminating in correctly predicting Spain to beat Netherlands in the final.

Paul in action – it’s just a pity he couldn’t pick Mega Millions lottery numbers instead!

The Psychic Gorilla

Paul’s not the only one to predict sporting outcomes. Colo the gorilla also rose to fame when she correctly predicted the winner of the NCAA men’s tournament in the States. Colo, at 55 years old, is the first gorilla born in human care and the oldest gorilla in any zoo in the world. Camera crews travelled to the Colombus, Ohio Zoo that houses Colo to ask her a very important question – a $640 million USD question: What will the winning numbers be for the record breaking Mega Millions jackpot? Her prediction: 9, 12, 21, 31 and 41 and the Mega ball 9.




This post was written by
Jason L - who has written 2501 articles
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