35 Crazy Circus Facts That Will Completely Shock You! | Kidadl


35 Crazy Circus Facts That Will Completely Shock You!

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When you hear the word clown, a circus is often the first thing that comes to mind.

The circus is a universal treat for entertainment and they can be found all throughout the world. Take the Icelandic word for the modern circus for example: sirkus, just a difference in spellings.

Circuses have been around for centuries. They are a popular theme for children's entertainment. Unfortunately, in more recent times they've been embroiled in many controversies involving animal welfare. Here are a few facts you should know.

History And Development Of The Circus

Circuses started out with acts like juggling and acrobatics, and gradually evolved to include tricks by performed by animals, including wild animals. More recently circuses are returning to being driven by human acts. Check out these interesting circus facts.

In ancient Rome, a circus building was used for horse and chariot races, gladiatorial combat, staged battles, and other shows.

Popular entertainment acts, like juggling ten balls, date back to ancient civilizations like the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, Aztec, Norse, and Polynesian civilizations.

The first recorded circus as a form of public entertainment was established by Philip Astley when he founded a British circus in 1768. A few years later in 1782, the royal circus was founded by Charles Dibdin and Charles Hughes.

An Englishman named John Bill Ricketts was the owner of the first modern circus in the USA.

Circus acts were initially performed in open-air structures. The iconic tents known as the 'Big Top' were introduced in the mid-19th century by J. Purdy Brown.

The oldest running circus in the world is owned by the Atayde family. 'Circo Atayde' was established in the Plaza de Toros, Mazatlán, Mexico on August 26, 1888.

The standard diameter for a performing ring in European circuses is 42 ft (12.8m).

Performers are often superstitious and consider whistling backstage to be bad luck.

Many performers carry a hair from an elephant's tail in their pocket for good luck.

Isaac A. Van Amburgh is considered the first wild animal trainer in American circuses. He entered a cage with wild cats such as lions and tigers in 1833. Until then animals were only showcased as a display. He was also known as the 'Lion King.'

The P. T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie & Circus was the first to use special trains as a form of transportation from one town to another.

Jumbo was the first star amongst wild animal performers. P. T. Barnum bought him from the London Zoo in 1882.

Contemporary circus Cirque Nouveau evolved in the '70s in the USA, the UK, France, Australia, and Canada. It brings theatrical techniques together with traditional circus skills. Animals are rarely seen in performances.

Cirque du Soleil is the most successful contemporary circus. The company has performed in over 200 cities across five continents and its shows have been watched by about 90 million people.

The International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo was the first international award for circus performers. The festival is held annually in Monaco.

Acrobats are popular circus acts.

Ethics Of Animals In Circuses

Animal acts may be a big attraction for circuses but performing animals are not always adequately looked after. Read these shocking facts you might not have known before.

Circuses started attracting attention and criticism from animal rights activists in the 1960s.

Circus animals spend the majority of their time chained or in cages. By some estimates, this could be as high as 96% of the time.

There have been over 123 cases of lions attacking people at circuses since the '90s.

Animals and other artists of a circus are often traveling for 11 months each year.

Though tigers have a natural fear of fire, they are made to jump through hoops of fire as part of circus entertainment. Many tigers have suffered burns during such acts.

Most performing tigers are housed in cages measuring merely 58 sq ft (5 sq m).

To save costs on veterinary services, many circuses lease animals temporarily from dealers instead of buying them outright.

Arthritis and foot infections caused by a lack of exercise and standing for many hours are amongst the leading causes of death in elephant performers.

When animals are transported as the circus moves from city to city, they are deprived of food and fresh water for extended time periods.

In 2009, Bolivia became the first country to ban domestic and wild animal entertainment.

Over 40 other countries have followed suit with nationwide bans on the use of certain, or all, animals in circus entertainment.

New Jersey was the first state in the USA to ban the inclusion of exotic animals in circuses.

Fortunately, more and more people and counties are becoming aware that animal circuses must be phased out.

Controversies Surrounding The Circus

Irrespective of whether it was a royal circus or an ordinary one, circuses have always been surrounded by controversy. Here are a few facts you should know.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has conducted undercover investigations that show circus trainers using electric rods and other cruel methods of training.

An investigation in 2008 into the welfare of animals in the Netherlands revealed that 71% of the animal performers had medical problems.

According to PETA, 35 elephants have died or been killed while they were under the care of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

A 146-year case of cruelty towards elephants by their trainers against the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended in 2014. The elephant act was discontinued which affected ticket sales and eventually the circus closed down in 2017.

There have been over 35 incidents involving elephants going rogue from circuses since 2000.

An elephant named Janet from the Great American Circus in Florida went out of control while giving a woman and young children a ride in 1992.

An elephant named 'Tyke' killed her trainer and severely mauled the groomer in front of hundreds of spectators in 1994 during a Circus International performance in Hawaii.

In 2004, an elephant known as Riccardo was euthanized after fracturing both legs. The circus claimed the elephant was climbing onto a 19 in (48 cm) high platform but according to animal activists, the activity was a training drill.

Though circuses are still around, they're not as popular today as they were in the past. With animal acts being banned, it remains to be seen how circuses continue to evolve.


What is the oldest circus?

The Royal Hanneford Circus is considered the oldest circus.

What are the good things about the circus?

Circuses are a great form of entertainment for the entire family.

What is a circus?

A circus can be defined as a company of performers including clowns, jugglers, acrobats, stuntmen, animals and more, who provide diverse entertainment.

Who invented the circus?

The modern-day circus was invented by Philip Astley.

When did the circus start?

Circuses as public spectacles date back to the Greek and Roman ages. However, modern circuses as we know them today started in 1768.

How are circus animals trained?

Unfortunately, animals are trained for animal acts with pain-inducing instruments such as bullhooks, electric prods, and whips.

How are animals treated in circuses?

Animals in circuses do not usually get the attention and care they need.

What do circus animals eat?

Animals in the circus eat food according to their natural diets.

How do circus animals get trained?

Animals are trained by forcing them to perform certain actions repeatedly.

How are circus animals captured?

Wild animals are usually captured as babies. Their mothers are often killed. Some may be born into captivity.

Are circus animals really abused?

Most animals are not taken care of properly and are trained in a way that is abusive.

Where was the first circus in America?

The first American circus was in Philadelphia.

Which actor previously worked as a lion tamer?

Christopher Walken was a lion tamer before he started acting.

What is a flea circus?

Flea circuses were popular sideshows in the early 19th century. Fleas were attached to props like miniature carts and made visible through a Fresnel lens.

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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