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Elephants in Sarasota: Then and Now

Elephants and the circus have a long history and deep connection to Sarasota. John Ringling moved the winter quarters of his Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Sarasota in 1927. The trapeze artists, the lion tamers, the tightrope walkers, and the elephants came. 

Old photo from State of Florida archives shows animals and trainers.
Animal trainers and elephants practicing their acts. (Photo: State Archives of Florida)

The circus acts almost always included animals, and the elephant acts were crowd favorites. They became synonymous with the Big Top. However, over the years, animal rights activists began speaking against the use of animals for entertainment. By 2016, Ringling Brothers retired all their elephants,  ending a 145-year tradition, and the circus closed in 2017. 

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