A tongue-twisting circus entertained our city a century-and-a-half ago.
While plastering an ad with the word “circus” might not draw too many stares, naming a travelling animal menagerie a “hippozoonomadon” was a guaranteed eye-grabber. Toronto was among the stops veteran showman Lewis Lent brought his exotic mix of elephants, equestrians, and hippos to during a grand tour of Canada West (present-day Ontario) during the summer of 1862.
We dare you to say “athleolympimantheum” five times fast. We also noticed that the elephants received more dignified names (historical figures ranging from Cleopatra to American politician Daniel Webster) than the mules mentioned below, who were stuck with monikers typically found in a minstrel show.
The Globe seemed impressed, if generically so, by the circus, which drew a crowd of around 2,000 during its opening night:
The great attraction is the Hippopotamus or River Horse of the White Nile. This strange looking animal is accompanied by an Egyptian who assisted at its capture. Taken together, they are great curiosities and well worth a visit. Next come the wonderful performing Elephants who perform several extraordinary feats, winding up by one of them turning a barrel organ, while a second dances to the music on the bottom of an inverted tub. The equestrians, male and female, performed some very daring feats, and the acrobats displayed much agility.
Additional material from the July 22, 1862 edition of the Globe.