Bobo was first featured in a self-titled storyline in the Mickey Mouse newspaper comic strip. In the story, Mickey mistakenly purchases Bobo at an auction. Eli Squinch, also making his first appearance in that story, convinces Mickey that he is Bobo's rightful owner. However, Eli actually intends to use Bobo to run his sawmill to save on electricity using a treadmill, which had already killed two horses. Mickey and Horace Horsecollar stall Eli's repossession of Bobo until the baby pachyderm discovers his mother is in a visiting circus. Bobo runs away and is reunited with his mother.
Bobo's first animated appearance was in Disney's 1936 short Mickey's Elephant. Here, he is given to Mickey by the Rajah of Gahboon. Disney had planned to make Bobo into a recurring character, but nothing ever came of the idea. Storyboard sketches of a planned cartoon featuring Bobo, titled Spring Cleaning, were printed in the book Mickey Mouse: The Floyd Gottfredson Library - Volume 3: Showdown at Inferno Gulch.
- In 1947, director Robert McKimson created a similarly-named baby elephant at Warner Bros. Cartoons (although bearing a much closer physical resemblance to Dumbo) for two Looney Tunes cartoons: Hobo Bobo (1947) and Gone Batty (1954). However, both baby elephants are not to be confused for each other, as they are not exactly the same.