Since ancient times, circus animals have entertained people. In ancient Rome, visitors enjoyed watching chariot races and were amused when captive lions and bears were allowed to devour outlaws and criminals. It wasn't until the mid-1800s when American travelling circuses began displaying wild animals performing all sorts of tricks and the public began to express concern for the animals' living conditions and training regimen. In recent years, modern bans on animal circus acts have become popular.
The Ancient Romans hosted a few circuses, where wild animals were used for entertainment purposes. Equestrian shows, staged battles and other displays and shows were popular, but the chariot races were the main attraction. Visitors found it entertaining to watch lions and tigers and bears gobble up prisoners for fun. In Ancient Rome, the circus was the only public spectacle that men and women could enjoy together. Other Roman circuses included the Circus of Maxentius, the Circus Flaminius and the Circus of Nero.
Former Englishman and cavalry sergeant-major Philip Astley is generally attributed to being the father of the modern circus. After serving as a horse trainer during the Seven Years War, he tried his hand at imitating the Latin trick riders and trained other European men to do the same. Astley and some of his pupils, like Jacob Bates, travelled throughout Europe and performed in public places, to the delight of children young and old.
Astley launched his performing circus, complete with jugglers, acrobats and even clowns at the same time one of his pupils, Charles Hughes, began his own show. Hughes' show, however, featured tricks by costumed dogs and other domestic animals, something Astley's circus didn't offer.
American Traveling Circus
In the early 19th century, Joshuah Purdy Brown of Somers, New York, introduced the circus tent, a portable canvas structure to replace the wooden circus buildings that were being used at the time. Hachaliah Bailey, also of Somers, had been travelling with his young African elephant. The two decided to travel together and attracted a menagerie of exotic animals that drew a crowd. In fact, he and 135 other farmers formed the Zoological Institute, a trust that monopolised the travelling circus industry, controlling 13 menageries and three big-top circuses.
Circus Animal Acts Banned
In many areas, circuses with animal acts are not welcome to pitch their tent. Concern over cramped and possibly unhealthy living conditions, as well as violent animal training methods have many visitors concerned. PETA (People for Ethnic Treatment of Animals) states that animals aren't meant to ride bicycles and do tricks, and that it's better to be entertained by watching animals in a natural environment behaving in their natural manner rather than in unusual situations that may be detrimental to the health of the animal.
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