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anartist's avatar

Why are all circus elephants female?

Asked by anartist (14779points) April 3rd, 2010

I learned this from someone in the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers circus many years ago. I also learned that circus performers often were family groups and learning the act was passed down. But I didn’t learn what would happen when an old elephant had no skills to pass on because there were no elephant children.

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25 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Elephants are highly intelligent beings who are treated miserably in circuses. I boycott any circus with animal acts.

iam2smart99037's avatar

Because male elephants are too aggressive and can’t be tamed for circus acts.

anartist's avatar

@dpworkin so females are better at taking a lot of crappy treatment?

dpworkin's avatar

So the trainers are frightened of the males, but feel more free to abuse the females. The training, according to what I have read, is always abusive.

rebbel's avatar

“Adult male elephants naturally periodically enter the state called musth (Hindi for “madness”), sometimes spelt “must” in English.” Wikipedia.
That could be one reason.

jazmina88's avatar

The men are more rebellious and they need the more gentle females.

How horrible.

anartist's avatar

I rode an elephant named Olaf in a circus spec parade wearing a borrowed spangly bathing suit and a bunch of rhinestones and using one hand to hold on and one hand to wave and smile, smile, smile. I met the family that worked with elephants. They did not seem to treat their co-workers badly. The elephants did as lot of other work, too. They helped raise the tents. The animals were far better treated than the roustabout laborers, who could be abandoned at at traffic stops with a chinese fire drill technique.

anartist's avatar

They do use a big hook thing, but I never saw it used viciously.

anartist's avatar

I also learned from a clown that most clowns are gay. I can’t imagine why>

FutureMemory's avatar

As @rebbel stated, it’s a good chance Musth is the reason. Males in musth are incredibly dangerous.

dpworkin's avatar

@anartist I don’t know enough about this to say anything for certain, but from what i have read, the people you met are very much in the minority.

anartist's avatar

They may be, but I got to spend 3 days travelling with the circus [maybe the last 3-ring tent circus on the east coast] with my then boyfriend, a master electrician who was a circus buff and volunteered his services to work with the travelling electrician. I met all kinds of people and learned all kinds of stuff about how the circus works.

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anartist's avatar

@rebbel thank you. I think that is probably it!

PacificToast's avatar

Male elephants can be aggressive, so putting them in an arena surrounded by people and then bossing them around may not be a great idea if you want to see your next birthday.

rooeytoo's avatar

In virtually every species except human, females are always more valued and valuable than males for so many reasons. Humans are just a little slow sometimes.

davidbetterman's avatar

Are they? I never really bothered to look.


@rooeytoo Female animals of all species, including elephants, are generally more docile and “tractable” than males——they lack the natural aggression and greater physical strength of males, which make male animals much more harder to control and work with. Male animals are more unwilling to give in without a fight, so trainers avoid them. THAT is the reason why females are more valued, as you suggest. ;)

Freedom_Issues's avatar

Females are easier to train.

anartist's avatar

So male animals challenge their trainers for dominance and females don’t?

rooeytoo's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES – They also are capable of continuing the species. With AI and a freezer, you only need a male every couple of years. The rest of the time he is redundant.

@anartist – I have the scars to show that isn’t true!!!


@rooeytoo Sigh! We’re not talking about a battle of the sexes here. I’m just stating the facts, and it’s a fact that male animals are harder to control and tame due to their testosterone. In general, they are also larger and more stronger than the female of the species. That’s why you normally don’t have male animals in circuses.

rooeytoo's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES – Sigh! Me too, I am just stating the facts as well.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

this question even makes me upset – highly against use of animals in circuses.

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