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A Ringling Brothers Circus elephant walks out of a train car as young children watch in the Bronx railroad yard in New York City, April 1, 1963. The circus opens in Madison Square Garden April 3 for a 40-day engagement. (AP Photo)
A Ringling Brothers Circus elephant walks out of a train car as young children watch in the Bronx railroad yard in New York City on April 1, 1963.AP
A Ringling Brothers Circus elephant walks out of a train car as young children watch in the Bronx railroad yard in New York City, April 1, 1963. The circus opens in Madison Square Garden April 3 for a 40-day engagement. (AP Photo)
Visitors heading to the big top to see 'The Greatest Show On Earth' performance from the Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey circus, circa 1950. (Photo by Keystone/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Circus 1955
Monkey acts are a favorite with many circus goers so Beatrice Dante puts her chimpanzee through a tight wire number in preparation for the New York opening, April 6, 1949. (AP Photo/Ed Ford)
Circus bear "Fritz" seems none too pleased with his predicament as he pedals his "high strung" bicycle around at the opening of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden, New York, April 5, 1939. (AP Photo/Tom Sande)
The Picchians acrobatic act of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus rehearse for the season's opening night at Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, April 5, 1940. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES,CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15, 1957: A women and man poses with an acrobat at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Los Angeles,California. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 7,1948: A performer rides an elephant to entertain the audience during Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in New York, New York. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
A Ringling Brothers Circus elephant walks out of a train car as young children watch in the Bronx railroad yard in New Y
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See Ringling Brothers' 'Greatest Show on Earth' Through the Years

Jan 15, 2017

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will close in May, bringing an end to more than 100 years of the famed show.

With displays of exotic animals, bright costumes and daring acrobatic stunts, the circus has been a part of American culture since the mid-1800s. Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses in 2017, traveling throughout the country to perform 30 shows.

The circus emerged out of Phineas Taylor Barnum's popular traveling troupe of animals and human oddities, which joined with the five Ringling brothers, who performed skits in their home base of Wisconsin. The troupes grew and traveled across the U.S. by train, becoming routine family entertainment by the mid-1900s.

See photos from the circus through the years above.

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