TIME Mexico

Mexican Government Votes to Ban Circus Animals

A tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a performance of the Fuentes Gasca Brothers Circus in Mexico City, June 22, 2014.
A tiger jumps through a ring of fire during a performance of the Fuentes Gasca Brothers Circus in Mexico City, June 22, 2014. Sean Havey—AP

Not certain yet whether President Enrique Peña Nieto will sign bill into law

The Mexican legislature has passed a bill to ban the use of animals in circus performances.

Mexico City has already passed a ban on using animals in the circus, along with six states. The legislature’s lower chamber voted Thursday to ban the use of animals, following an earlier vote by the Senate. The bill requires circuses to make a list of all their animals and make them available to zoos in case they want to take them. It also imposes fines for violation.

President Enrique Peña Nieto hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill into law.



TIME photography

LIFE at the Circus: Behind the Scenes With Ringling Brothers, 1949

Photographs chronicling the lives lived behind the scenes at the Ringling Brothers circus extravaganza in the late 1940s.

LIFE.com celebrates the legendary entertainment juggernaut that Charles Edward Ringling (Dec. 2, 1863 – Dec. 3, 1926) and several other Ringlings owned and operated through the years: the Ringling Brothers Circus (later the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the “Greatest Show on Earth”). Here are photographs by LIFE’s Nina Leen, chronicling the lives lived behind the scenes by the huge extended family that made up the traveling extravaganza in the late 1940s.

In fact, Charles Edward’s nephew, John Ringling North, was the larger-than-life focus of the LIFE feature for which these photos were originally made. (Very few of the photographs ran in the magazine.)

Of all the marvels, human and animal, which populate the Ringling Bros.’ circus [LIFE wrote], none can match John Ringling North, the man who runs it, in sheer, brassy flamboyance. It is the considered judgment of a large following of friends and enemies that the sustained private performance given by North, a former stock-and-bond salesman who hacked his way through a financial jungle to become president and majority stockholder of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc., is easily as spectacular as any that takes place under the Big Top of The Greatest Show on Earth.

The 1949 article goes on to portray a man of outsize appetites, remarkable talents (“He tap dances, plays the saxophone and cornet, juggles lighted torches and sings songs of his own composition. . .”) and boundless, near-manic energy who somehow was able to put his stamp on a massive pop-culture phenomenon while, if the article is to believed, he rarely slept, constantly boozed it up in his private Pullman train car and galloped around on a stallion named Stonewall’s Pride.

Under the Big Top or outside of it, they just don’t make ‘em like that any more.


Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Fine Art

30 Years of Cirque du Soleil’s Best Photos

The best collection of photos from the "dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment" as the beloved act turns 30.

The “dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment” show turned 30 this week, after three decades of incredible acrobatic acts—and astonishing photos of them.

TIME The Brief

Hunt Continues for Lost Plane, Circus Catastrophe and NBA Playoffs

Welcome to #theBrief, the four stories to know about right now -- from the editors of TIME

Leading off today is the news, or lack thereof, on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight. The hunt continues as the search area widens. Then, the shocking cellphone footage of a circus accident that injured nine acrobats. In sports, the Clippers advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs despite the turmoil surrounding owner Donald Sterling after his racist remarks. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar weighs in on racism inside and out of sports. To beat the Mondays, we end with a joke, courtesy of President Barack Obama who let them have it at the White House Correspondents Association dinner Saturday night. Here are the 17 meanest jokes from the annual event.

TIME Accidents

Circus Accident Caused by Snapped Clamp, Official Says

Authorities say a snapped clamp caused eight hanging acrobats to plunge during a "Legends" show of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus on Sunday, leaving three in critical condition. The accident was witnessed by an audience of thousands, many of them children

Authorities have determined a snapped clamp caused eight arial hair-hanging performers to plummet to the ground Sunday in a Rhode Island circus accident.

“We have identified a clamp that snapped that held them to the rafters, and it failed,” Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare told WPRO-AM. Three of the acrobats are still in critical condition, but none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening, the Associated Press reports.

“Unfortunately this particular clamp failed,” Pare said. “It snapped off. We have it, we’re analyzing it, we’re seeing why it happened to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future. That’s all part of our focus.” The performers fell 25 to 40 feet onto another dancer on the ground.

The act was part of the “Legends” show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, during which the performers hang “like a human chandelier” using their hair. The accident was witnessed by an audience of about 3,900 people, which included many children.


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