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Professor Leonidas Arniotis’ Great Dog and Cat Circus

Leonidas Arniotis was a Greek showman who brought a circus of dogs and cats to New York City in 1897. They performed in a rooftop garden in Midtown Manhattan for several years, and entertained  crowds who enjoyed watching cats ride on dogs as if they were horses, animals doing comedy skits, and even a cat who sailed down to the stage under a parachute that she released herself.  

Leonidas Arniotis had an international four-legged troupe that featured about two dozen dogs, including a Great Dane who served as porter and ringmaster, a Siberian wolf hound, a French poodle, a St. Bernard, a Newfoundland, and a hairless little dog from Mexico.

Although he admitted that he would prefer to train 20 dogs than just one cat, he also had about a dozen cats, including a “feline aeronaut” who dropped to the stage in a parachute. According to Leonidas Arniotis, all the animals lived in baskets and curled up “together in hearty good fellowship.”

Leonidas said he fed his animals every day at 4 p.m. (not only did the cats get the best meat and milk and soup, but they were also allowed to go foraging for mice in the theaters sometimes.). He did not believe in using hunger as a training method, because he believed they did better work with a full belly. He only “rarely” whipped his dogs but he “wouldn’t dare punish the cats at all.” As he explained, “Why, I believe if I struck one of those cats she would never act again.”

The animals were trapped in cages when a fire broke out on their rooftop theater in 1899, but their discipline and training were enough to ensure they all survived the fire. Read about that fire and more about Professor Leonidas Arniotis’ Great Dog and Cat Circus at The Hatching Cat. -via Strange Company


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