Circus elephant


Definition of Circus elephant

From the elephant glossary Section: management






Relevant Literature about Circus elephant


A Circus elephant is an elephant that lived most of its time on a travelling Circus, taking part in shows and performing for a paying audience. Elephants on Circus became controversial in the 1990s and only 20 years later elephants on Circus became more unusual.

In 2016 only some 65 elephants still lived on Circus in USA.[1]

In 2017, Kenneth Feld, owner of Feld Entertainment and Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus (RBBB), the worlds largest Circus, located In USA, decided to retire their elephants, and within shortly the entire RBBB Circus closed down after 145 years performing with elephants. The older elephants will remain on Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, while the 16 younger were relocated 200 miles from Central Florida to White Oak Conservation in Yulee, outside Jacksonville.[2]

In 1990, 42 Circuses in Germany kept elephants, compared to 39 Zoos, and in 2021, according to the European Elephant Group (EEG), based in Germany, there are only 100 circus elephants left in Europe.

The two largest European Circuses, Circus Krone in Germany and Circus Knie in Switzerland, have both retired their elephants and several elephants from smaller European circuses were retired during the last years, to Platschow Elefantenhof (Platschow Elephant Park), in Vorpommern in Germany.[3]

Meanwhile in India, a similair change has been seen, and in 2021 the Great Golden Circus, the only circus in India to use elephants, was de-recognised by the authorities concerned.[4]

Internal relevant links on website www.elephant.se



Circus elephant mentioned in The Elephant Database
  • No country match the word Circus elephant in the database.

21 locations holdings in the elephant database match the word Circus elephant.

26 elephants in the elephant database match the word Circus elephant




Reference list Koehl, Dan, (2021). Circus elephant. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 20 September 2021 at https://www.elephant.se/index.php?id=51. (archived at the Wayback machine)


Sources used for this article is among others:


Selected publications
  • Friend, T. H. and Bushong, D. 1996. Abstract. Stereotypic behavior in circus elephants and the effect of "anticipation" of feeding, watering and performing. Proceedings of the 30th International Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology 14-17 August 1996, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
  • Friend, T. H. 1999. Behavior of picketed circus elephants. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 62:73- 88.
  • Friend, T. H. and M. L. Parker. 1999. The effect of penning versus picketing on stereotypic behavior of circus elephants. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 64:213-225.
  • Gruber, T. M., T. H. Friend, J. M. Gardner, J. M. Packard, B. Beaver, and D. Bushong. 2000. Variation in stereotypic behavior related to restraint in circus elephants. Zoo Biology 19:209-221.
  • Toscano, M. J., T. H. Friend and C. H. Nevill. 2001 Environmental conditions and body temperature of circus elephants transported during relatively high and low temperature conditions. J. Elephant Managers Association 12:115-149.
  • Nevill, C. H. and T. H. Friend. 2003. The behavior of circus tigers during transport. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 82:329-337.
  • Williams, J. L. and T. H. Friend. 2003. Behavior of circus elephants during transport. J. Elephant Managers Association 14:8-11.

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Categories glossary | management


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