LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Monday, 17 June 2013

Chipperfields - Europe's largest animal circus

Circus animals are thin on the sawdust these days - you may find a few horses or dogs in a British big top if you’re lucky.

How different it was in the past as this Chipperfields poster from 1959 proves. Under the monocled eye of then TV favourite Fred Emney we find:

- Polar bears and brown bears.

- 4 Shire carthorses.

- a Poodle and Pony revue.

- Europe’s Greatest Elephant Herd (presented by the “15-year-old wonder boy of the circus,” Dickie Chipperfield).

- Nubian Lions.

- Cheeky chimps.

- 16 thoroughbred horses.

- Chako the “almost human” ape.

As if that were not enough, a “Fabulous Exotic Act” featured:

- 2 Giraffes.

- 8 Camels.

- 8 Lamas.

- Harry the Hippo

- and (scribbled in as if almost an afterthought) Crocodiles!

In this later poster from 1963, Chipperfields put the giraffes, camels, lamas and hippo on display but presumably didn’t have enough paper to list the rest of the acts individually, boasting only, “Europe’s largest animal show - over 200 animals.”

“The only circus in the world where this spectacle can be seen,” shouts the advertising copy. To which, half a century on, we can probably add with some certainty, “And which will never be seen again.”

Read about the colourful history of the circus, the amazing stories of today's circus people and the ongoing debate about animals in the circus in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book for Anyone Who Dreamed Of Running Away With the Circus.

Click here to buy Circus Mania from Amazon.

"Circus Mania is a brilliant account of a vanishing art form."
- Mail on Sunday.

But animals haven't fully left the big top. Click here to see my pictures of the latest Chipperfield, 24-year-old Thomas Chipperfield, and his big cats at Peter Jolly's Circus. and click here to read my review of Peter Jolly's Circus.

Find fabulous examples of circus posters
and programmes through the Circus Mania blog.


  1. I'm a member of the extensive Chipperfield clan and would love to purchase some of these old posters. Any suggestions about who I should talk to? Mark Chipperfield, Adelaide, South Australia

    1. Have you tried the Circus Friends Association page on Facebook?