Since 1884, Cole Bros. Circus has travelled America and thrilled countless “children of all ages.” Today, Cole Bros. is one of a very few circuses still performing under the big top (Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey folded its tents and retreated to arenas in 1956).
The images here will give you some idea of the show itself and also of what it’s like behind the scenes at this historic extravaganza. Due to limited, uneven lighting and almost constant motion, many of the photos I took inside the tent are a bit blurry, but I think they convey a sense of what the show is like.
I realize that many people feel that circus animals are mistreated and have miserable lives, but the Cole Bros. animals seemed healthy and alert to me, as my photos of the tigers cavorting in their exercise pen show. Of course, in an ideal world all animals would be wild and free, not kept in captivity to entertain people. But in this far less than ideal world, the only way many wild species will avoid extinction is if enough people care about them, so it seems to me that zoo and circus animals perform an essential service for their wild cousins by being on display.