Circus Facts

There have been many interesting things about modern circuses over the past 250 years.

Juggling was a skill that many ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, Romans, Greeks, Romans, Norse and Aztecs, knew.

There are eight types of tightrope walking: highwire, tightwire, skywalk and slackwire.

Philip Astley opened the first modern circus in 1768. However, some believe circuses originated in Ancient Rome and “circuses” as a form of public entertainment.

In 1793, Philadelphia was home to the first modern circus. Its owner was John Bill Ricketts, an Englishman.

In 1927, the Soviet Union opened its State University of Circus and Variety Arts (or Moscow Circus School).

J. Purdy Brown was the first to put a circus in a large tent – the “big top”. It was done in 1825.

“Circo Atayde”, the oldest continuously operating circus in the world, is still being run by Atayde. It was established in Mazatlan, Mexico, on August 26, 1888.

The first appearance of the contemporary circus as we know it today was in 1970. It is a mixture of classical circus and theatre.

According to some estimates, there are approximately 20,000 clowns worldwide.

Circus performers believe that eating peanuts and whistling backstage is bad luck. They carry the hair of an elephant tail in their pockets for luck.

Many circuses are accused of cruel treatment of animals.

The United States has approximately 12,000 circuses that include animals. They are monitored by less than 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors.

In circuses, animals spend 96% of their time in chains or cages.

Many caged animals exhibit repetitive behaviours such as swaying, rocking, and bobbing. These behaviours are caused by high levels of stress and boredom that can affect the animals. This behaviour is typical for elephants, who spend 10 hours per day engaging in it.

Most circus animals spend approximately 11 months on the road in cramped cars and boxes. They develop arthritis and other joint problems due to not moving enough.

Circus trainers use bullhooks and whips to teach animals tricks.

Although there are laws protecting animals at travelling shows, they are not well enforced and inadequate.

Circuses mainly use wild animals taken from their habitat.

Many circuses rent their animals from dealers seasonally. Some circuses do not provide competent, regular veterinary care because of this. This is cheaper.

  • Transporting animals can often leave them without food or water for long periods.


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