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20 Circus Facts for World Circus Day

This Saturday, April 18, is the sixth World Circus Day. To celebrate, here are 15 fabulous facts about the sawdust circle.

(Photo: D McPherson)

This Saturday, 18 April, is the sixth World Circus Day. To celebrate, here are 15 fabulous facts about the sawdust circle.

1 - The word Circus dates from Roman times when arenas such as the Circus Maximus staged chariot races, gladiatorial contests and mock battles.

2 - The modern circus was invented in London by trick horse-rider Philip Astley, who opened his Amphitheatre of Equestrian Arts in London, in 1768.

3 - Astley never called his show a circus. The word was coined by writer and actor Charles Dibdin who founded the competing Royal Circus with Astley's equestrian rival Charles Hughes.

4 - A standard circus ring remains 42-feet in diameter, the size originally established by Astley.

5 - Clowns are nicknamed Joeys after 19th century pantomime star Joseph Grimaldi.

6 - Leotards are named after the first star of the flying trapeze, Jules Leotard.

7 - The word jumbo, meaning large, entered the English language because of Jumbo, an 11-foot-tall elephant that the American showman PT Barnum bought from London Zoo.

8 - The traditional circus theme music is called Entrance of the Gladiators and was composed by Julius Fucik in 1897.

9 - Charlie Cairoli was the first clown to appear on This Is Your Life.

10 - Chinese acrobats first appeared in European circuses in 1866.

(Photo: D McPherson)

11 - Cirque du Soleil was created as part of the 1984 celebrations to mark the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada.

12 - Enrico Rastelli (1896 - 1931) is considered greatest juggler of all time, being able to juggle ten balls at once.

13 - The first American circus was founded by John Bill Ricketts in Philadelphia on April 3, 1793.

14 - A 'josser' is an outsider who joins the circus.

15 - According to circus superstition, it's unlucky to wear green in the ring.

16 - Foot-juggling with a person is known as a Risley act after the 19th century American pioneer of the style Richard Risley Carlisle.

17 - The mischievous clown in a double act is called the 'auguste' and the straight man is the 'whiteface.'

18 - The word clown is believed to come from the Icelandic word klunni, meaning a clumsy person.

19 - The first elephant to appear in a British circus performed at Covent Garden in 1810.

20 - Joshua Purdy Brown staged the first circus in a tent or big top in America in 1825. Before that, circuses were performed in buildings or the open air.

This post originally appeared on the author's blog, www.circusmania.blogspot.co.uk