Sad news for one of the world’s biggest circuses

Going to the circus was one of those things most of us did as a kid. The circuses of old
Elephants in a Ringling Bros circus show. Source: YouTube

Going to the circus was one of those things most of us did as a kid.

The circuses of old had performing animals and glittering, spectacular performances by dancers, acrobats and other artists.

But those circuses of old are wrapping up, and now one of the world’s biggest of those circuses is calling it a day.

The Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus, famed to be one of the inspirations for the book and hit film Water For Elephants, has announced it will shut down in May after 146 years.

The American circus is one of the world’s biggest and oldest, travelling across the country with its menagerie of exotic animals and star studded line up of talented performers.

For generations it’s entertained and enthralled, and now that’s all about to become just a distant memory.

So, why’s the circus coming to an end?

Well, there are a number of factors the circus executives claim including a drop in attendance, skyrocketing operating costs, changing audiences and battles with animal rights groups.

“There isn’t any one thing,”  circus owner’s Feld Entertainment chief executive Kenneth Feld was quoted by the ABC.

“This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.

“The competitor in many ways is time.

“It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.”

Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey is from an era where circuses travelled to towns by rail and put on spectacular performances – a time when elephants were still used to entertain and circus ‘freaks’ were shown off in small towns across the US.

What about the animals?

Well, the circus retired all their elephants last year – sending them to a conservation farm in Florida.

Meanwhile, the lions, kangaroos, alpacas, tigers, camels and donkeys will be found suitable homes.

It’s just another sign of the changing times!

Do you remember going to an old school circus with performing animals and a ‘freak’ show? Are you sad to see the end of these kind of circuses?



  1. Janice  

    Not sad at all when you consider the cruelty to make the animals perform, all in the name of so called entertainment.

  2. Oooh, I was hoping it was gong to be the Parlimentary Circus as it has a few white elephants.

  3. Kerry Drew  

    In the 21st century we should not be encouraging any form of animal exploitation. Circuses are a thing of the past and that is where they should remain.

  4. Diandra  

    I am divided….. HAPPY for the animals but sad as it is the end of an era. The circus bought such joy when I was a kid. I always wanted to join the circus. It looked so glamorous and exiting.

    • Pam Webster  

      I have to agree with Diandra. As a kid I was spellbound by the cleverness of the animals – in those days we knew nothing about how they were treated, and knew very little about animal rights, if anything. Whilst I agree with the animal rights people (how do these trainers treat people?) and am happy that the animals are now released from their torturers, it will be sad to see the passing of what was, when we were kids, something magical.

  5. Diana  

    The cruelty involved in “training” animals for circuses has long be a bone of contention. I am very glad to hear that the last of the big circuses has given up on their animals, though there is no real reaosn to close. Cirque de Soleil has done very well without animals being forced to do tricks.

    • marilyn flynn  

      agree with everything you say Diana.. Lets hope China bans circus’s pretty soon. The way their animals are trained and treated is appalling and heartbreaking.

  6. Julie Brown  

    amen and hallelujah to changing times. In the dark ages of ignorance these gross organisations may have been acceptable BUT NO MORE. a societies level of advancement is measured by how it treats animals.

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