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Blue Unit 2012: 142 Fun Facts



Ringmasters control the performance AND the crowd with their commanding voices.
Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson found his voice in the Harlem Boys Choir in New York at the age of 11.
Johnathan Lee Iverson was the first African American AND the youngest Ringmaster in the history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®
Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson was named one of the top ten most fascinating people by Barbara Walters in 1999.
Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson graduated from the School of the University of Hartford in 1998 with a degree in voice performance.
Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson travels on the train with his wife, who is also a Ringling Bros.® performer, and two children during the tour.
Ringmaster Johnathan, Lee Iverson spent his youth training with the famous Boys Choir of Harlem.
He was Ringling Bros.® first African American Ringmaster and youngest at the age of 22.
In 2010, Barbara Walters named Johnathan Lee Iverson as one of her 10 most fascinating people.


Paulo is a little person with a BIG personality.
Paulo is the only one at the circus who can see the dragon; can you see what he sees?
Paulo has strength, wisdom, courage and heart. He is a gymnast, an aerialist, an acrobat and a daredevil… he does it ALL!
Despite Paulo’s short stature, he has always had a passion for movement and performance.
When Paulo was 20 years old he joined a touring production of Wizard of Oz.
Paulo says, “It doesn’t matter the size of a man, what matters is how capable the man is.”
Paulo dos Santos’ extreme talent was developed through intensive training in martial arts, dancing and acrobatics.


America’s favorite cowboy, Andre McClain, is the DRAGONS All Access Pre-show host.
He also presents a display of mixed hoof stock that includes llamas, horses, ponies and mini-donkeys.
Andre has been around horses and rodeos since he was a child.
He is a descendant from a long, distinguished African-American cowboy heritage that dates back to the early 1900s.
Andre uses the three P’s – patience, perseverance and praise to train various-sized animals with different personalities.

Flying Caceras

This troupe ups the ante and doubles the deal when flying through the air by using TWO sets of trapeze bars!
Don’t blink or you will miss the triple somersault. This death-defying feat happens in less than three seconds!
It’s a family business; this troupe was formed 30 years ago by Miguel Caceras and is now lead by his son George!
The rigging in this double-decker trapeze act was designed by troupe leader, George Caceras. It is four feet taller than the average trapeze.
Troupe leader George Caceras is a third generation circus performer.
The Flying Caceras present the first worldwide attempt at a full twisting double bar-to-bar somersault.
Innovative troupe leader George Caceres developed and built the only portable double-decker trapeze in the world.
The rigging is four feet taller than the average trapeze setup.
It allows for as many as four troupe members to fly vertically and diagonally at the same time instead of two.
The flyer must wait for a call from the catcher to make sure he or she leaves at the correct time.

Cossack Riders

What goes under a horse’s belly and comes back up again? A Cossack Rider!
To a Cossack Rider, a fall is not a fall at all; it’s a precisely timed feat of courage and strength.
Troupe leader, Kanat, has trained each of the troupe members the art of Cossack riding.
Cossack troupe leader, Kanat, is married to lead female rider Tatiana. They have two children together who travel with them during the show.
Cossack troupe leader Kanat and fellow rider and wife Tatiana have two children who are also wild about riding.
Cossack riding was originally used as a weapon during wartime to trick their opponents into thinking they are wounded or dead.
The word “Cossack” means “free man” or “adventurer.”
The Cossacks were a group of Russian military warriors who were superior horsemen.
A Cossack child would be riding a horse by the age of 3 and was taught the “warrior ways” from the time they were born.
The Tchalabaev Cossack display is a masterpiece of speed, intensity, agility and concentration.
Cossacks were warriors in ancient Europe whose victories in battles were based on their physical horsemanship.
Cossacks perform dangerous cavalry maneuvers originally used in battles to fool and escape from their enemies. 
This unique troupe of three women and nine men are exceptionally trained acrobats with equestrian backgrounds.
Horses and riders navigate a 46-foot-diameter ring at speeds of more than 25 miles per hour.
These fearless riders need to trust their animal partners as they gallop up to speeds of 25 mph around the ring.
These Cossack riders execute a Roman-riding five-man-high pyramid while horses gallop at full speed.
In Roman riding, the rider stands atop a pair of horses, with one foot on each horse.

Hair Hang

These ladies are truly hanging from the hair on their heads; let’s just say they can’t afford to have a bad hair day!
These hair-hanging beauties have to be vain — they need strong healthy hair to do what they do. They must use some good shampoo!
A healthy strand of hair can support just under a quarter pound without breaking.
Viktoriya and Widny practiced their double Hair Hang act for six months before performing it publicly with Ringling Bros.
This mane attraction includes spinning, twirling, juggling and tumbling down silks… all from the strands of their hair!
Viktoriya is married to fellow performer Andrey Medeiros. They team up in their motorcycle high-wire act!
Hair-Hanging Wonders, Viktoriya and Widny are suspended in the air spinning and twirling by the strands of their hair.
The key to being able to perform this act is keeping their hair healthy and strong!
They use high-protein shampoo, exercise daily, and maintain a healthy diet.
This hair hang performance is a very unique specialty in the world of aerial artistry.
The preparation of the hair for each performance is a closely guarded trade secret.
It requires not only proper preparation, but lots of conditioner, and excellent genes to get the right kind of hair for this act.
A single strand of hair can carry a weight up to 100 grams.
A full head of human hair could eventually hold between 12,345 – 18,518 lbs without breaking individual hairs or pulling out any follicles.
While the hair-hanging wonders make this act look easy, it is a very painful performance

Aerial Spheres

The Kiev Troupe perform several aerial maneuvers inside AND outside of the spheres 30 feet above the ground!
The ladies of the Kiev troupe open and close these plexiglass spheres using only the muscles in their arms and legs.


Aerial artists require strength, ballet and gymnastic skills.
These aerialists flip, flex and float more than 30 feet above the arena floor.

Motorcycle Globe

Precision and timing are key inside the Globe of Steel. One wrong move and their fates are sealed.
Riders can only see the bike right in front of them. Practice makes perfect, but TRUST is key!
One rider uses a whistle to communicate with the others. Can you hear the whistle over the roaring engines?
The Globe of Steel is 16 feet in diameter, with eight bikes going at 65mph. You do the math!
Witness a Ringling Bros.® world record of eight motorcycling daredevils whirling inside a 16-foot steel globe!
The thrill-seeking Torres Family is from Paraguay.
All began participating as youngsters in the sport of motocross.
The Globe of Steel circumference is 16 feet and the steel cage weighs 3,300 pounds.
The Torres family orbits up to an unprecedented 65 miles per hour on motorcycles less than 4 inches apart from one another.
The Torres family adds more motorcycles and increases the speed and complexity of their riding patterns to thrill audiences.
The brothers, sister and cousins of the daredevil Torres Family rely on mutual trust and impeccable, coordinated timing to accomplish this bold feat.
This close-knit family knows that at any given moment something could go wrong.
Riders know when to start and stop by listening for the signal – a whistle that can be heard above the roar of the engines.
Then, each rider embarks on a unique pattern or direction within the globe.

Alex Lacey/Big Cats

The Great Alexander Lacey has a charming British accent, but his talent lies in charming a cage full of ferocious felines!
In the wild, lions travel together in groups called prides, while tigers travel alone. At The Greatest Show On Earth® these ferocious felines come together in one ring!
Alexander’s daughter Katrina has grown up with her father’s felines and thinks of them like family; she named many of them herself. 
Alexander has been with all of his cats since they were born and knows them so well he can recognize their individual roars without even seeing them!
Alexander brushes his male lion, Masai’s, mane everyday with a regular hair brush!
Alexander has a special relationship with Masai, his sixth generation male lion. He even kisses him during the show!
Trainer Alexander Lacey presents the only mixed-cat presentation of its kind in the United States.
Lions and tigers perform together in the same performance space.
The Lacey family has raised more than 11 generations of lions and 9 generations of tigers.
Like a human fingerprint, the pattern of each tiger’s stripes is unique!
The average span of a tiger’s swipe is 5 feet.
The total amount of pressure of a tiger’s jaw is 300 pounds.
The art of training animals is based on their natural behavior, on trust, and on positive motivation.
Tigers and Lions have an extremely good sense of smell and hearing, so what is great about travelling from one location to another is that the animals are always experiencing different views from their enclosures different terrains under foot (paw) different smells and different sounds and all of this is very interesting for them and makes for a lot of variation.

Hans Klose/Dog Act

Hans’ pooches aim to please. Practice makes perfect, but the treats they get as a reward don’t hurt either.
Hans’ clever canines include Poodles, Fox Terriers, a Great Dane and an Austrian Shepherd.
Hans’ father was an acrobat and foot juggler who joined Ringling Bros. in 1956. His mother was a Radio City Music Hall Rockette!
Dog trainer Hans Klose is married to fellow performer Maria who incorporates her gymnastic skills in their dog act!
Hans and Mariya Klose enjoy working at The Greatest Show On Earth with their 13 dogs.
Each dog possesses unique skills such as jumping, standing on their hind legs, and somersaulting.
These high-energy dogs display their animal athleticism with a fun and whimsical twist.
Almost all of the dogs that travel with Hans and Mariya were rescued from pounds and shelters.
Hans uses positive reinforcement when training his dogs and treats them with mini hot dogs snacks.


Mayya Panfilova trains the her cats using patience, repetition and reward.
These intelligent felines perform jumps, and balance and scale a kitty low wire. 
One cat actually walks the tight rope which shows the amazing balance.

Motorcycle High Wire – Medeiros and Petrov

The high wire in this act is only as wide as your thumb. There are no training wheels on these bikes!
Andrey Medeiros has been performing since he was six years old in his family-owned circus.
Andrey is married to fellow motorcycle high-wire performer and one half of the hair hanging-duo, Viktoriya.
Andrey and Viktoriya received their motorcycle high-wire act as a wedding present!
Alex Petrov is featured in the motorcycle high-wire act, but he is also responsible for many of our animals and their living environment during the tour.
Alex Petrov, motorcycle high-wire dare devil performs the death-defying stunt of spinning 360 degrees, upside down, over the audience!
Executing two dazzling feats of aerial bravado, the Medeiros Troupe is sure to astound Children Of All Ages in DRAGONS.
Andrey Medeiros zips back and forth riding a motorcycle on an inclined high wire only as wide as your thumb.
Viktoriya Medeiros and Widny Neves perform bold stunts on the trapeze bar attached to the undercarriage.
Alex Petrov is a multi-generational daredevil who rides a specialized motorcycle balanced atop a wire the width of a thumb.
Adventurous aerialists, Denitza Dennis and Ariagna Sanchez, perform daring spins and acrobatic maneuvers.
Alex’s motorcycle speeds up to 50 miles per hour across an incline wire more than 40 feet in the air.
The motorcycle races up the cable at a speed of more than 30mph!

Shaolin/Kung Fu

The Shaolin add to our amazing animal acts when they perform their craft and embody different animal spirits. Can you guess which animals they are mimicking?
The ring of swords and fire is only two and a half feet in diameter on the inside. Talk about cutting it close!
The Shaolin practice up to seven hours every day.
The Shaolin demonstrate the ancient art of qigong, pronounced CHEE-GONG.
The Shaolin harness their energy through mind and body to help them break wooden dowels on their bodies and balance on sharp tridents.
The Shaolin Warriors from the Shandong Province of China display supernatural strength and unbelievable agility.
The Shaolin were handpicked from elite martial arts schools throughout China.
These warriors use the ancient form of qigong or “mind of matter” to perform incredible feats.
The Shaolin Warriors each meditate an hour a day to balance their energy and keep their minds and body focused.
These Kung Fu masters maintain a healthy diet, exercise and meditate regularly.
Acrobatics and years of martial arts training and expertise are required to perform these amazing feats.
This Kung Fu master dives blindfolded through flaming swords with spinning blades - - with less than 3-inches to spare.

Scala/Teeterboard and Russian Barre and Asadullin

What goes up must come down… but at The Greatest Show On Earth you do a few airborne somersaults first!
A teeterboard is like a playground seesaw, only this seesaw catapults performers into the air!
This elite family of athletes practices for at least five hours a day. That is 1,825 hours a year!
Both teeterboard troupes launch flyers into the air who flip and then land on a human pyramid, created by other troupe members.
The Russian Barre is made of fiber glass; troupe members are launched 20 feet into the air and propelled into elaborate aerial maneuvers.
Although Troupe Scala considers everyone family, troupe leader George is especially lucky to have his cousin and uncle performing with him.
Asadullin/Teeterboard and Russian Barre
What goes up must come down… but at The Greatest Show On Earth you do a few airborne somersaults first!
A teeterboard is like a playground seesaw, only this seesaw catapults performers into the air!
Troupe leader, Damir Asadullin, was doing gymnastics at the age of seven. By 17 he was recruited to the Moscow Circus.
Troupe leader, Damir Asadullin, has hand selected each of the troupe members.
Every member of the Asadullin Troupe has achieved a Master’s degree in acrobatics or gymnastics.
Both teeterboard troupes launch flyers into the air who flip and then land on a human pyramid, created by other troupe members.
The Russian Barre is made of fiber glass; troupe members are launched 20 feet into the air and propelled into elaborate aerial maneuvers.


The Russian bar act requires high-level acrobatic, tumbling and communication skills.
The Asadullin Troupe demonstrates Olympic-caliber flips, twists and extreme jumps on the Russian Bar.
These elite acrobats soar more than 20 feet into the air!
Each Asadullin troupe member was recruited from elite gymnastics universities throughout Russia.
Troupe Scala members are all graduates of the prestigious Cuban National Circus School from Havana, Cuba.
Their studies included eccentric comedy, aerial, clowning, and acrobatics but each has a passion for performing gravity-defying stunts.
It takes unequivocal trust for one another to perform incredible feats of high-flying acrobatics.


It takes incredible balance, superhuman strength, precision timing and trust to be successful on the teeterboard.
While on the teeterboard, performers are vaulted up and backwards, into their blind spot.
They can only see the precise place to land, usually on a pair of shoulders, once they have completed their flips in the air. 
That’s why trust and teamwork are essential!
The teeterboard act includes a team of flyers, catchers, spotters and pushers!


Clowning is no joking matter. It takes practice, practice, practice to make people laugh!
The average size of a pair of clown shoes is 28EEEEE.
Each Ringling Bros. clown uses more than two pounds of greasepaint for makeup each year!
Clown Alley is the magical place where the clowns get ready for each performance.
Each clown builds their own clown character and designs their own clown face. Every clown is unique!
Sandor Eke is the BOSS CLOWN. That means he is the clowns’ representative and liaison between the clowns and management.
As the BOSS CLOWN, Sandor mentors new and returning clowns.
Boss Clown Sandor Eke’s father was a Tent Master and his mother a Ringmaster.
Taylor Albin, the tailor clown, attended Ringling Bros. shows almost every year since he was six months old in his hometown of Mineral Wells, Texas.
Clown Alex Barney filled some big shoes when he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a clown!
Clown Henry Higinio says he never goes anywhere without a clown nose!
Andrew Hicks says he comes from a long line of clowns, but he is the first to get paid for it!
Clown Kelliann Karsten’s role models include Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Lucille Ball.
Clown Oscar Liendo, Jr. was performing magic by age 10, juggling by age 13 and clown student by 18.
Clown Jared Mongeau honed his clowning skills at an international youth training program called Circus Smirkus.
Clown Billy Murray worked at Universal Studios as Billy Boo Who in their annual production of Hollywood’s Grinchmas.
Clown LaRena Rose collects snow globes from every city she visits!
Clown Ivan Vargas’ circus history goes back five generations on his mother’s side and six generations on his father’s side!


A dragon’s bones are hollow, like a bird. Their light weight helps them fly at great speeds!
Dragon scales renew themselves as they grow, just like your fingernails!
The dragon is the largest known flying creature.
Dragons have shiny scales covering their whole bodies, just like snakes.
Dragons have a third lung that stores methane; they use this lung when they want to breathe FIRE!

Ringling Dragon

The dragon measures in at 22 feet — that is more than five times taller than Paulo!
The dragon in the show has nearly 2,000 scales that were each hand-sewn.
Building the dragon took close to 5,000 hours of manpower over two and a half months.
Our dragon weighs 4,000 lbs — that’s half the weight of a full-grown elephant!


Tigers can eat more than 100 lbs. of meat a day. That is like eating 400 hamburgers!
A tiger can bite down so hard it would be like getting pierced with a nail that weighs 300 lbs.
No two tigers are alike; their stripes are like human fingerprints, each one is unique.


A male lion’s roar can be heard for up to five miles.
Male lions are the only felines that have manes.
When lions walk, their heels do not touch the ground.
Lions have been known to live nearly 30 years in captivity and have an average life span of 15 years in the wild.
The lionesses, female lions, are usually the best hunters.


Elephants drink 100 times more water than humans do. That is like drinking 800 glasses of water a day!
A full grown elephant’s tooth weighs about the same as a nine-pound bowling ball!
When elephants swim, they use their trunks like snorkels!


Elephants respond to over 60 voice commands.
Elephants do not have sweat glands.  They use their ears to fan themselves and keep cool.
The elephant’s trunk has many uses, including serving as a trumpet, used to greet other elephants. 
Elephants use body language and many different kinds of noises to communicate:  fumbles, squalls, squeaks, snorts.
Each elephant eats 150-200 pounds of hay along with an assortment of local fresh fruits and vegetables, each and every day.
Elephants have delicate skin and love their baths. 
They are washed according to the peculiar preferences of their own personalities, all known by elephant handlers and trainers. 
They even have their nails groomed on a regular schedule.
As a daily snack, an elephant can eat at least 3 loaves of bread – in human terms this adds up to at least 36 sandwiches! 
Elephants also love to eat apple, carrots, watermelons and most other healthy vegetables and grains!
The tallest point of an elephant’s body is the top of it head which is about the height of a basketball hoop! 
An elephant can drink up to 800 glasses of water in one day; compare to a human who drinks 8 glasses of water a day.
Elephants have excellent hearing and also use their ears like a fan – flapping them back and forth to cool themselves!
The grace and playfulness of the Ringling Bros.® elephants makes them favorites for Children Of All Ages.
The Ringling Bros. elephants receive frequent pedicures and brushing and exfoliation scrubs.
They love to eat whole unsliced loaves of white bread as a treat.
An elephant doesn’t drink through its trunk.  It sucks water into its trunk and blows it back into its mouth to drink. 
An adult elephant can drink up to 50 gallons of water in a single day! 


A horse’s upper lip is so nimble it can pick things up as small as a pencil just like you would with your thumb.
A horse’s brain is the size of a potato.
Horses have monocular vision, which means they can see different things with each of their eyes.


Over 1,000 pounds of popcorn are consumed in each city that Ringling Bros. visits.
At each performance, 4,000 pounds of ice is used to produce snow cones.
More than 750 pounds of sugar is used to spin cotton candy in each city.

Train and Travel

The average distance the Ringling Bros. circus train travels between cities is 350 miles.
Each year, an average of 1,000 hours is spent traveling by train from city to city.
109,500 meals per year are prepared at the Pie Car, the Ringling Bros. traveling diner.
The DRAGONS’ train will travel an average of 16,000 miles this year alone!

The Pie Car

The dining room on the train is called the Pie Car.
The Pie Car has a protégé called Pie Car Jr. which travels from the train yard to the arenas to feed the performers and staff.
When the train is moving, the Pie Car is open 24/7.

Back to The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Report by Carl Morrison