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A circus is a special kind of entertainment that can be enjoyed by children and adults. Circuses are a group of performers that may include acrobats, clowns, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, and other artists who perform stunts.
See the fact file below for more information on Circus or alternatively, download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
General Circus Facts
- In Ancient Rome, the circus was a building for the exhibition of horse and chariot races, equestrian shows, staged battles, gladiatorial combat, and fights with trained animals.
- The origin of the modern circus has been attributed to Philip Astley, who was born in 1742 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, England.
- Philip brought together all the elements of the circus in 1768.
- A circus became a company of performers who put on diverse entertainment shows.
- The term circus also describes the performance which has followed various formats throughout its 250-year modern history.
- Circus shows can include:
- Trapeze acts
- Tightrope walkers
- Trained animals
- Stunt-oriented artists.
- On April 3rd, 1793, John Bill Ricketts presented the first circus in Philadelphia, America.
- The earliest modern circuses were performed in open-air structures with limited covered seating.
- From the late 18th to late 19th century, custom-made circus buildings often made of wood were built with various types of seating, a center ring, and sometimes a stage.
- In 1825, J. Purdy Brown was the first to order a canvas tent for his circus.
- He realized he would have the ability to move his show every day by using a tent and could therefore reach more people and make more money.
- By 1829, the circus began using animals they had trained.
- By 1835 circus wagons began to appear in circus parades.
- The very first was a bandwagon carrying the circus band.
- In 1872, P.T. Barnum, together with William C. Coup and Dan Castello, moved their entire show in railroad cars, however, small circuses are still traveling by wagon.
- 1882 saw Jumbo the elephant, brought to the United States by the Barnum and London Show.
- 1883 William F. Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill, performed in the first wild west show at the Rocky Mountain and Prairie Exhibition.
- In 1907, the Ringlings purchased the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth.
- In 1919, the Ringling Bros. Circus and Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth were combined into one giant circus.
- This new circus was called “The Big Show”.
- The Big Show did its last tented show on July 16, 1956.
- The show was performed exclusively in arenas after this date.
- In 1968, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey opened Clown College, but women were not admitted until 1970.
- The Canadian circus company, Cirque du Soleil, had an estimated annual revenue exceeding US$810 million in 2009. Its cirque nouveau shows have been seen by nearly 90 million spectators in over 200 cities on five continents.
- Many a child has dreamed of joining a circus after watching a show.
- The activity of the circus traditionally takes place within a ring.
- Large circuses may have multiple rings, like the six-ringed Moscow State Circus.
- A circus also often travels with its own band.
- Instrumentation in the United States has traditionally included brass instruments and drums.
- The traditional circus performance is usually led by a ringmaster who has a role similar to a Master of Ceremonies.
- The ringmaster presents performers, speaks to the audience, and generally keeps the show moving.
- Daredevil stunt acts and freak shows are also parts of many circus acts.
- These activities include fire eating, sword swallowing, knife throwing, and the human cannonball.
- Clowns are common to most circuses and are typically skilled in many circus acts.
- Traditionally, there are three basic types of clowns that appear in the circus
- The whiteface who use “clown white” makeup to cover their entire face and neck, with none of the underlying flesh color showing. Features are then usually painted on in either red or black. This clown holds the highest status in the clown hierarchy. The whiteface clown is traditionally costumed more extravagantly than the other two clown types. They often wear the ruffled collar and pointed hat which typify the average person’s idea of a “clown suit”.
- The auguste, whose base color is red or flesh tone. The eyes and the mouth are encircled in white and the features are traditionally highlighted in red and black. The auguste is usually costumed in baggy plaids accented with colorful polka dots or loud stripes. They boast wide-collared shirts, long neckties, unruly colored wigs, and oversized noses and shoes. The augustes are the ones who get the pies in the face, are squirted with water, are knocked down on their backside, sit accidentally in wet paint, or have their trousers ripped off.
- Lastly, the character clown adopts an eccentric character of some type, such as a hobo, a butcher, a baker, or a policeman. The character’s clown makeup is a comic slant on the standard human face. Their makeup starts with a flesh tone base and may make use of anything from glasses, mustaches, and beards to freckles, warts, big ears, or strange haircuts.
- There is no single, absolute definition of what constitutes each clown type.
- A variety of animals have historically been used in acts.
- The types of animals used vary from circus to circus, and include
- Domestic animals include
- A variety of birds including parrots, macaws, doves, and cockatoos.
- The earliest involvement of animals in the circus was just the display of exotic creatures in a menagerie.
- The first true animal acts in the circus were equestrian acts.
- Soon after elephants and big cats were displayed as well.
- Isaac A Van Amburgh is generally considered to be the first wild animal trainer in American circus history and entered a cage with several big cats in 1833.
- Mabel Stark was a famous female tiger-tamer.
- Animal rights groups have documented many cases of animal cruelty in the training of performing circus animals.
- It is alleged that the animals are kept in cages that are too small and are given very little opportunity to walk around outside of their enclosure, thereby violating their right to freedom.
- There are nationwide bans on using some if not all animals in circuses in many countries.
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use Circus worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about circuses and the people who perform in one.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- Circus Facts.
- Father of the Modern Circus.
- Ring Master.
- Circus Acrostic.
- Come One, Come All!
- Enjoy the Show.
- Ticket Booth.
- A Circus in Every City.
- Collage Time.
- Circus Balls.
- My Big Show.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens at a circus?
A circus is a form of entertainment that features many different spectacular acts including performing animals and frolicking clowns.
Which is the most famous circus?
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus call themselves “The Greatest Show on Earth”.
What jobs are in the circus?
Clown, animal trainer, trapeze artist, and many more.
Do you get paid to be in the circus?
Yes. The amount can vary widely depending on the company.
At what age can you join the circus?
Most circuses don’t hire people under 18.
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Link will appear as Circus Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 5, 2017
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