Not every circus animal works until their last breath. Some animals get to live the twilight of their years away from the daily grind of perching on their hind legs or jumping through hoops. When the Great British Circus sold off their animals in 2012, they actually advertised their goods — a zebra and two horses — in ads in the back of Horse and Hound Magazine [source: Animal Defenders International].
And you might be surprised to know that some animals with the circus aren't owned by the show at all, but have private owners that lease out the animals. Upon retirement from work, they're back to being the responsibility of the owner [source: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey]. Some elephants also go to zoos, where they exist in communities of elephants. But it seems many of the animals go to wildlife sanctuaries. Both an elephant and a big cat sanctuary are run by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Florida.
Author's Note: 10 Facts About Circus Animals
In the interest of erring on the safe side, I would argue that the only animal you're guaranteed to see treated like royalty at the circus is the flea. And that doesn't just go for flea circuses; there's got to be a lot of fleas at every circus, and you know they're living the life.
- A Way with Words. "Dog and Pony Show Origins." Sept. 29, 2012. (May 6, 2015) http://www.waywordradio.org/dog-and-pony-show-origins/
- Amazing Animals. "Acro-cats." CircusCats.com. 2014. (May 6, 2015) http://circuscats.com/schedule.html#.VUqEctpVikq
- Anderson, Libby. For sale: one zebra, four horses and four camels." OneKind.org. Aug. 23, 2012. (May 6, 2015) http://www.onekind.org/news_blog/blog_article/for_sale_zebra_horses_camels
- Animal Defenders International. "Britain's biggest wild animal circus sells its animals." April, 17, 2015. (May 6, 2015) http://www.ad-international.org/animals_in_entertainment/go.php?id=2780
- Furgurson, Ernest B. "A Speck of Showmanship." The American Scholar. June 3, 2011. (May 6, 2015) https://theamericanscholar.org/a-speck-of-showmanship/#.VUqHRNpVikp
- Grove, Lloyd. "USDA Complaint is PETA's Latest Salvo in War Against Ringling Bros." The Daily Beast. Oct. 18, 2012. (May 6, 2015) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/18/usda-complaint-is-peta-s-latest-salvo-in-war-against-ringling-bros.html
- Izadi, Elahe. "The long battle to remove elephants from the Ringling Bros. circus." The Washington Post. March 5, 2015. (May 6, 2015) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/18/usda-complaint-is-peta-s-latest-salvo-in-war-against-ringling-bros.html
- Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. "Animal Care FAQ." Feld Entertainment. 2015. (May 6, 2015) http://www.ringling.com/ContentPage.aspx?id=45761
- Speaight, George. "A History of the Circus." Tantivy Press. 1980. (May 6, 2015) http://books.google.com/books?id=DG5OAAAAYAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=
- Thayer, Stuart. "The Keeper Will Enter the Cage: Early Wild Animal Trainers." Circus Historical Society. 2005. (May 6, 2015) http://www.circushistory.org/Thayer/Thayer2a.htm
- The Acme Miniature Flea Circus. "Press Archive." AcmeFleaCircus.com. Nov. 2, 2011. (May 6, 2015) http://www.acmefleacircus.blogspot.com/
- The Associated Press. "Oakland Joins LA in Banning Circus Elephant Tool." The New York Times. Dec. 18, 2014. (May 6, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/12/18/us/ap-us-bullhook-ban-california.html
- Williams, Helena. "Five facts about elephants in circuses you need to know." The Independent. Dec. 17, 2013. (May 6, 2015) http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/five-facts-about-elephants-in-circuses-you-need-to-know-9010288.html
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