Fairy Ponies, Devils, Fireworks and Bullfight: Some 18th and 19th Century Circus Acts

Some randomly selected acts from eighteenth and nineteenth century equestrian circuses:

“The LITTLE DEVILS, Masters Robinsons and Sutton, will leap from two Horses through a Hogshead suspended in the Air, by a Rope, and alight on the Saddles, the Hogsgead headed up with strong Paper; notwithstanding, the aforesaid Little Devils jump through it with such Force, as breaks the Paper, and alight on the Horses again, on full gallop” (1786)

“The BLACK HORSE BUCEPHALUS, which is 16 hands high, will appear on the stage, mounted by two Equestrian Performers, with ornamental Fire Works on their heads. When the Fire Works are playing, Hughes’ unequalled vaulters will jump over the riders heads, and through the fire works..” (1786)

“One of HUGHES’ sagacious HORSES will run from the Ring upon the Stage, and from thence up to a Balcony, and fetch a Cap from a young Lady’s Head sitting in the Balcony.” (1786)

“Surprising and inimitable Equestrian Exercises by Mr. Astley, Junior; with the astonishing LEAP over the GARTER, beyond comparison higher than ever attempted by any other person whatever.” (1786)

“Mr. Ducrow will appear with his Fairy Stud of six Ponys, and the celebrated Pony Fire-fly will leap over five others of the same size.” (1831)

“The principle novelty in the ring was the ‘Elfin Equestrian,’ a young child scarcely five years of age, who exhibited such equitating proofs of genius, as to elicit the plaudits of the whole audience.” (1831)

“Mr Ducrow will introduce his high trained steed, termed the Golden Feathered Horse of Olympus.” (1832)

Ducrow was also responsible for “A Spanish Bullfight” in which the bull was played by a “gentle and beautiful white horse with a bull’s skin over his padded neck and body, his head supplied with horns, and his hoofs painted as if cloven, in every respect appearing like a tremendous bull, wild and fierce.
On entering the circle he stares wildly around, and then rushes at the principle cavalier, personated by Mr. Ducrow, who receives the attack, and by exercising his spear dextrously, goads the bull into madness.” (1835)

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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