Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to Close ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ After 146 Years

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced on Saturday, January 14, that it will close its beloved Greatest Show on Earth after 146 years of performances.

"After much evaluation and deliberation, my family and I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will hold its final performances in May of this year," Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said in a statement. "Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company."

Before folding the big tent, Ringling Bros. will perform 30 shows across the United States. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Boston. The final show will be at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, on May 21.

"We hope you will come to celebrate this American icon for one last time before our tours conclude," Feld said in the statement.

The iconic circus — which brings in an estimated 10 million people each year, according to The New York Times — has often been a target of animal rights groups. Activists have repeatedly stated that forcing animals to perform is cruel. PETA applauded the circus' closure in a statement released on its website on Saturday.

"As of May, the saddest show on earth for wild animals will end," PETA said. "Thirty-six years of PETA protests, of documenting animals left to die, beaten animals, and much more, has reduced attendance to the point of no return. … Society has changed, eyes have been opened, people know now who these animals are, and we know it is wrong to capture and exploit them."

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