10 Facts About Circus Animals

Animals Got No Respect
Boxing a bear might be more brutal on the human than the bear. General Photographic Agency/Stringer

So we've covered a lot about circus animal history, but what about some more contemporary circus animal facts? Well, first let's address the elephant (wearing the sequined headdress and walking a tightrope) in the room. Circus animals — both throughout history and in present-day — have been treated extremely badly, and we would be remiss to ignore it. Let's just get one more thing straight about circus animal history: Circuses didn't start off anywhere close to cruelty-free.

In the beginning, animal trainers (or tamers or keepers) used cruelty in order to "teach" their animal's behavior or tricks. The most famous lion trainer of the 19th century was Isaac Van Amburgh, and while a lot of his act consisted of so-called "playing" with the animals in delight, it belied the cruelty he inflicted on them outside the ring [source: Speaight]. He supposedly beat his animals with a crowbar, which I suppose is one way to skin a cat — but seems like a very effective way to have the cat skin you [source: Thayer].

How about today? Are circus animals still treated so badly?