Circus Hippos

Circus Hippos

Hippopotamuses are relatively rare in the circus because they are large and relatively intractable animals. Hippos are one of the few animals that regularly kill people in the wild.

However a trained hippo is undeniably an impressive sight to see and there are a number of famous examples around the world.

Photo credit: Damors / / CC BY-SA

In most cases a hippo is essentially a display animal, brought out with enticement of food treats. Besides being rather dangerous they have no history of domestication and are generally seem as very difficult to train (and perhaps not very bright).

Hippo Tricks

Drawing a Carriage

A hippo-drawn carriage is always a curious sight, as shown by a hippo in the Barnes Circus shown below. I think the hippopotamus shown is Lotus, who appears in other pictures of the time with a carriage of a slightly different design, and you can see another shot of the rig here.

The Patterson Circus also had a hippo carriage around the same time.

Hippopotamus pulling a cart driven by Betty Jay. Barnes Circus, 1930.
Hippopotamus pulling a cart driven by Betty Jay. Barnes Circus, 1930.

Being Ridden

A hippopotamus provides a stable, if not comfortable, perch for humans or animals. You can still see a trainer ride a hippo at the Grand Cirque Royal circus. However I don't think anyone would actually let their kids get on the back of one like in the poster below.

Well Known Circus Hippos

  • Katy is a pygmy hippo who is part of the Carson and Barnes circus,

Circus Hippo Myths

A story started to circulate online that a hippo ate a dwarf who had bounced off a trampoline into it's mouth. However this story is not true.

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