Tagora and his wheel of fire. TopFoto / mediadrumimages.com

Circuses have been apart of entertainment for a long time and have a storied history both in America and worldwide. These events have always had some sort of mystique hanging over them and made people believe that the impossible was possible. Circuses are filled with incredibly talented performers, crazy acts, and rare sights, all of which make circuses must see entertainment. Without these things, a circus wouldn’t cause people to travel miles just to witness the event. However, some circus acts are especially amazing. Witnessing these acts was truly awe inspiring and was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. These legendary circus acts changed and defined the circus as we know it, and will go down in history as world-class. 


Annie Oakley

Annine Oakley is the definition of circus legend to many people. If someone had to name one circus act off of the top of their head, Annie Oakley may be the first one they say. Annie Oakley was a professional sharpshooter that joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. The show was hailed as premier entertainment at the time and toured throughout the country. Annie Oakley was one of the headline attractions for this amazing show, pulling off amazing feats that are impressive still to this day. Her accuracy could be described as superhuman, and she would frequently wow audiences by hitting miniscule targets from quite a distance away. Annie Oakley’s fame spread fast and even lead to her becoming the highest paid member of the show. There are many reasons why Annie Oakley is still remembered as a legendary performer, even today. 


Rosa Ritcher

In 1877 Rose Ritcher became known as the “human cannonball” when she was shot into the air out of a cannon. This is the first known instance of someone trying this stunt, which only added to Ritcher’s notoriety. Ritcher was better known by her stage name “Zazel” and toured the United States for a time. Thousands of people would gather to watch her stunt, mystified about how she could launch herself from a cannon. Ritcher would launch into the air from the cannon and be shot towards a safety net. Unfortunately the dangers of this stunt caught up to her and she eventually suffered a career ending injury from a stunt gone wrong. Despite that, she is still known as one of the most legendary performers in the history of the circus.


Issac Van Amburgh

People attend circuses with the hopes that they will see something exoitc that they have never seen before. Luckily for them, Issac Van Amburgh was able to deliver. He was known for his extremely daring acts, and was even dubbed “The Lion King”. This nickname stems from his use of lions and other wild cats in his acts. He would frequently use these felines in his stunts, often mounting them or dipping his arm in blood and thrusting them into the feline’s jaws. These daring acts make Issac Van Amburgh one of the most legendary circus performers. 



Animals frequently are apart of circus acts, but one circus animal was a must see attraction for a good time. Gargantua was a massive gorilla that was billed as the most terrifying creature known to man. The gorilla was highly aggressive and had a menacing scar which only added to its mystique. The animal was so popular that it is credited with saving the Ringling Bros Circus from going bankrupt after the Great Depression. The circus had fallen on hard times, and Gargantua was able to reverse the circus’s fortunes. People came from all over the country just to see this truly terrifying creature. It’s no wonder that this beast is remembered as one of the most legendary circus acts to ever perform. 


Harry Houdini

Out of all former circus acts, Harry Houdini may be one of the most well known and most prevalent in popular culture. Houdini is known as one of the greatest magicians the world has ever seen and specialized in escaping out of tricky situations. Houdini would frequently find himself out of impossible situations, getting out of handcuffs or locked boxes. He eventually  continued his craft outside of circus acts, becoming a show all by himself. However, his start as a circus performer and the magnificent feats he accomplished make him one of the most legendary circus acts to perform.