“Greatest Show on Earth” Folds its Tents!

After more than a century, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus AKA “The Greatest Show On Earth” plans to perform its final show in May. The news was announced on the company website, citing declining ticket sales, high operating costs after the company retired its group of touring elephants.

Ringling has been phasing out it elephant shows as a result of changing public tastes and criticism from animal rights groups over the well-being of the animals. The company held its last show featuring elephants in May, and retiring the animals to its 200-acre conservation center in Florida. established by Feld Entertainment in 1995.

Elephants had been in circuses since P.T. Barnum introduced Jumbo in 1882. But before the traveling exhibitions evolved into a regular attraction for wholesome family fun, Barnum had made traveling spectacles of animals and “human oddities” popular.

At the same time the five Ringling brothers were performing juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, the two circuses merged and the modern circus was born, traveling around America by train entertaining astonishing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.

The Feld family bought Ringling in 1967 and employs about 500 people for both touring shows “Circus Extreme” and “Out of This World”.  The employees were told about the closure after shows in Orlando and Miami.

The Feld family says their existing animals of lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to “suitable homes,” and the Feld family told the Associated Press that the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.