The Last Show For Circus Elephants

May 10, 2016 By Aarathi
Aarathi's picture

Remember the story of Dumbo? We all loved the adorable little elephant who overcame his difficulties and became the star of the circus show.

In the real world too, many elephants are the biggest draw in circuses. But their way up to the top is not easy. Their training, food, travel, and life in captivity have attracted the attention of many animal welfare organizations.

For many years, Asian elephants accompanied their large traveling circus units across the country. But, no longer.

Earlier this month, the last eleven elephants at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, USA gave their final performances at Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. And they all retired to a permanent home at the Centre for Elephant Conservation, Florida.

Circus Elephants

The word circus derives comes from "circle", as events would take place in a circular arena with the audience seated around the floor.

The modern circus as we know it, is around 250 years old. For many years, the shows mostly had displays of equestrian or horse-riding skills. This gradually grew to include musicians, clowns and other performers. In time, many trained animals came in as variety entertainment.

In the United States especially, the concept of a circus was a big hit. The main performance ring known as the Big Top got larger and grander over the years. Showing off exotic animals became a fashionable trend. One of the first animals was the elephant. Found only in Asia and Africa, elephants were relatively simpler to handle than wild predators.

Of all the circus organizations in the US, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus definitely ranks as one of the oldest. It was formed in 1919 after the merger of two of America's largest circus shows. The company runs touring shows billed as 'The Greatest Show on Earth' and until last month, regularly displayed elephants as a part of their event display.

Ringling Brothers Centre For Elephant Conservation

Animal activists worldwide started paying special attention to elephants, since they were trained with cruel-looking bull-hooks. These are now banned in many regions. The pressure from activists forced Ringling Brothers to become a part of several animal-welfare and breeding programs.

Animals were retired to well-established sanctuaries once they could no longer perform. Soon, the organization themselves set up a 200-acre elephant facility in Florida in 1995 and made plans to eventually retire all their elephants there.

As of last week, the entire herd of more than 40 elephants is living in Florida with dedicated caretakers. The large creatures are a part of breeding studies as well as a special pediatric cancer research program. You can read more about the elephant's remarkable resistance to cancer here.

Animal welfare activists are hoping that this will inspire all circuses to stop using animals in their acts in due time.


wsmecums's picture
wsmecums September 22, 2016 - 10:56am


Poodlelovepop1216's picture
Poodlelovepop1216 August 29, 2016 - 4:31am

I love elephants they are so cute.

syd16's picture
syd16 June 14, 2016 - 2:49pm

I have heard about this before, I LOVE ELEPHANTS!

drumdude25k's picture
drumdude25k May 26, 2016 - 12:23pm

I feel bad for the elephants + they're cute

QuinlanX's picture
QuinlanX May 26, 2016 - 11:35am

This is sad. I saw one once.

QuinlanX's picture
QuinlanX May 26, 2016 - 11:30am


Marmotron's picture
Marmotron May 26, 2016 - 11:28am

This Is SAD:(

Bolt123456's picture
Bolt123456 May 26, 2016 - 11:27am


banananaman's picture
banananaman May 26, 2016 - 11:24am

I think that is really cool.

Marmotron's picture
Marmotron May 26, 2016 - 11:21am

I LOVE elephants

I'm cool's picture
I'm cool May 26, 2016 - 6:04am

Yay! elephants are amazing!

Aditya08's picture
Aditya08 May 14, 2016 - 6:32am

I feel bad for those elephants.

drumdude25k's picture
drumdude25k May 26, 2016 - 11:35am


Lauren T's picture
Lauren T May 13, 2016 - 11:24pm

Dear Editor,

I have just read this article on circus elephants and I've also did research on how the elephants in the tourism industry in Thailand and realized how cruelly elephants are treated. I also want to share my writing on the elephants with all Youngziners to spread awareness and make life better for the captive elephants. :)

Circus elephants are not the only problem. Please go to to learn more about elephant rides and elephant tourism in Thailand!! The elephants are trained in camps by their mahouts, elephant trainers, and they chained up all the time, and get little rest, food, and water. They are abused, hit with bullhooks, and separated from their mothers at age one by a cruel method called pajaan. For these social animals, separating the baby from its mother leaves a horrible scar on its heart! PLEASE HELP ELEPHANTS!!!

Deepa Gopal's picture
Deepa Gopal May 29, 2016 - 9:43pm

Thank you so much Lauren T for bringing this important issue. You are absolutely right - it is not just circuses that ill-treat these gentle animals. We are so happy to see that you are raising awareness of this issue. We checked out the website you have recommended and it is indeed sad..

Keep championing and change will happen. Your generation is the future of our world..

GowstoneGaming's picture
GowstoneGaming June 1, 2016 - 2:15am

we should make a happy animal year,when a year to stop using and killing animal and wild products.(Except for harmful pest)

I'm cool's picture
I'm cool May 26, 2016 - 6:05am

That is so sad, I go do that right now :(

edwinl2's picture
edwinl2 May 13, 2016 - 11:20am

i have ben thar 20015 it was awsem i loved it so much it was so cut i wunt to cry

MossLady's picture
MossLady May 13, 2016 - 5:58am

i luv circus elephants =3

gracem3's picture
gracem3 May 12, 2016 - 4:56am

This is cute.