10 of the Most Dangerous Circus Acts Performed Today

Elephant Acts
Elephant acts have created many controversies surrounding animal cruelty and human safety. BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps you assume that the danger of elephants lies in their ability to crush or maim a human. You'd be absolutely correct, of course — elephants have been responsible for all sorts of frightening incidents, including an elephant that killed its trainer and later escaped on a rampage through Honolulu in 1994 [source: Cave]. Elephants also might be one of the most dangerous acts simply because when they slip through the circus' confinement, they can cause a lot of damage. And slip they do: In 1956, 42 elephants stampeded while being led to a railway car [source: NY Times].

But let's not forget that with all animal acts, some of the most dangerous risks are ones to the animals themselves. Organizations concerned with animal welfare have documented many cases of elephant cruelty that resulted in lawsuits and protests. In 2015, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced it would retire its elephant acts in 2018. While the move will appease animal rights activists in general, the New York Times editorial board pointed out that it does give a few more opportunities for the circus to make money off their controversial pachyderms.