As you tour the wild friends and family at Space Farms, you will have the opportunity to visit and observe the Space Farms Zoo, which includes bobcats, tigers and lions, buffalo, hyena, wild ponies, timber wolves, various types of foxes, bears and deer, leopards, monkeys, jaguars, coyotes, llamas, yaks, snakes, and hundreds more. This private collection of North American wildlife is the largest in the world — even rare, exotic species thrive in the natural Space Farms environment.
Space Farms originated in 1927 when Ralph and Elizabeth Space bought the first 1/4 acre of a complex that now expands to more than 400 acres. What began as a small general store, repair shop, and a wild animal shelter, grew to become New Jersey’s largest combined zoo and museum. The Spaces’ children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren continue the family tradition of conserving wildlife and preserving American history.
The Spaces were native farm people, both growing up on small family farms in Sussex County. Ralph Space worked hard to support what was soon a growing family. His mechanical expertise enticed him to open a small repair shop and gas station. Elizabeth helped by starting a small general store carrying the few necessities the local people needed: salt, sugar, oyster crackers, corn flakes, bulk cookies, canned salmon, soda pop and penny candy for the kids. Little did they know this small family business would someday become an internationally known attraction!
Later, to supplement the family income (which now included 3 children), Ralph was employed by the New Jersey State Game Department to trap predators marauding farm animals. This moonlighting was natural for Ralph, who was always an avid sportsman. Most of the distress calls were from local farmers in the springtime, when bobcats, fox, and raccoon had young to feed and preyed on the plentiful farm goats, sheep, chickens and ducks. Rather than kill the animals he caught in the spring – when the fur was of little value – Ralph built small enclosures around his garage to save them. Ralph’s original intentions were to keep the animals until the fall when the pelts were valuable. When the time came, however, 3 small Space children – Loretta, Edna and Fred – cried and begged their father to keep the animals. By the next spring, the animals had multiplied and the collection of wildlife grew. People around the area soon heard about the Space family’s wild animal collection and would drive by to see it. They would buy some gas, maybe some candy and soda, and visit the animal collection. Although he never intended it, Ralph Space soon had a zoo!