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Our historY

Our History

It all started in a hired tent that could seat 150 people at the blue route mall in Tokai, Cape Town on 24 march 2005. At the young age of only 21 David McLaren followed his passion and childhood dream and started McLaren Circus.

McLaren Circus was built upon the nostalgic memories of a childhood dream to someday reintroduce the magic culture and variety of a traditional big-top travelling circus through shows that are staged in the same wholesome family spirit that enchanted audiences for centuries.

A delightful band of artists trained by a circus school in cape town assisted David with the first shows in 2005. David was the ringmaster and his older brother Duncan performed clowning sketches. The circus was funded entirely by David McLaren. During this first year, shows were held during school holidays.

At the end of 2005, nine months after the launch, it was decided that the show would be rolled out to the country side. In 2006 David invested in a larger 22m x 28m red and yellow marquee, manufactured in cape town. David set off down the garden route with two caravans, a trailer, a bakkie, his animals and artists.

The now famous red and yellow marquee could be seen trekking all over the country, mainly to small towns and villages with one day stands. The last show before returning to cape town for the holiday season was in Paarl at the end of 2006.

After careful consideration it was decided that  McLaren Circus would tour the western cape and eastern cape provinces. An 8-ton truck, two camels, four ponies, and two lion cubs were acquired for the tour. It was an investment well worth it because this tour proved to be a great success.

Once back in cape town, 2009 was a historical year for McLaren Circus. It had now become necessary to invest in a bigger tent, and the beloved red and yellow marquee made way for a bigger white and red four-pole big top. The circus acquired more trucks and started touring the whole of Southern Africa.

As 2010 rolled in, the circus continued to tour south Africa, playing all towns it came across, no town was ever too big or two small. The circus grew bigger and better and as more trucks, a ticket office and more animals was acquired. David was indeed living his childhood dream.

With all the magic, love and laughter came tears in 2011. In the early hours of a Sunday morning in Witbank a freak storm hit the circus and caused a blow down. David stood helpless at his caravan as the freak storm blew down his circus tent causing major damage to the tent, king poles, equipment and seating inside the tent. The storm was over within a few minutes but left the circus in devastation. As the news spread through the circus world, David received calls from other circuses offering help and assistance. The McLaren Circus staff was amazing and all got up in the early hours of that morning to assist David. But the show had to go on and the tent, seating, equipment and king poles were all repaired within 3 days. The show was back up and it was business as always for McLaren Circus.

2012 became another historical year for McLaren Circus. A new 4-pole big top was purchased, a state of the art 12m canteen joined the colourful fleet. The new 4-pole big top could also be transformed into a 6-pole tent playing bigger venues and cities.

Today, David McLaren is still driven by his passion and love for circus to keep the magic and the wonder circus alive on the continent. McLaren Circus is unique and one of a kind now being the only traditional travel circus left in southern Africa that still tours all nine provinces on an annual or bi-annual basis.

The circus has become a household name and still tours Southern Africa like in the beginning, on their own steam without any sponsorship or funding. It's you, the public and South African circus fans that keep the McLaren Circus going and help us provide smiles to thousands of children of all ages every day by bringing entertainment to their doorsteps.

The McLaren Circus management and staff would like to thank you all for buying circus tickets over the years and thus supporting the McLaren Circus to become Africa’s greatest show.

Our animalS

Our Animals

Our animal friendly loving circus! McLaren Circus has a variety of beautiful animals. It is a great privilege to live and work with our beautiful animals. They play an important part in the circus. Their well-being is of utmost importance as they are part of the circus family.


Our animals are transported comfortably between venues. Careful attention is focused on their diets. They exercise, are groomed and their enclosures are kept clean daily. Veterinary care and good nutrition is also provided for our animals.

  • What kind of animals does the McLaren Circus have?
    McLaren Circus is a traditional circus and includes a variety of beautiful performing animals. Our circus program includes; poodles, goats, miniature horses, camels, Welsh ponies, Friesian horses, Arabian stallions, pythons, alligators and lions.
  • How does McLaren Circus ensure the highest quality animal welfare?
    McLaren Circus has always maintained a high standard of animal care. All our animals receive love and care, 24 hours a day. We consult with veterinarians throughout South Africa to maintain this high standard. Careful attention is paid to all our animals diets and they receive fresh drinking water, daily. Our animals are exercised on a daily basis and receive various forms of stimulation through training and environmental enrichment.
  • Where do you house your animals at McLaren Circus?
    All our animals are kept safe on the McLaren Circus site. Our hardworking team of animal experts ensure our animals receive shelter, shade, bedding and fresh drinking water. Our animals roam free, with the oversight of an animal groom at certain sites and our big cats always have a play enclosure attached to their main enclosure trailer. The older animals retire to our own farm in Midvaal.
  • How does McLaren Circus safely transport your animals?
    All our animals are safely transported from venue to venue in specialized trailers. The circus only travels short distances, from town to town and in cities, suburb to suburb. All our animals are accustomed to transportation and never show signs of stress.
  • When do vets check up on the animals at McLaren Circus?
    The circus has regular veterinary inspections. These are conducted by various veterinary specialists throughout the country. Our circus vet has been monitoring our animals for many years, however we do consult with other vets and this helps us maintain a high standard of animal care. All our animals receive the necessary inoculations and are de-wormed on a bi-annual basis. Our animals health and well-being is of utmost importance all times.
  • What do the McLaren Circus animals eat?
    Special attention is paid to all our animals diets. Daily, they receive only the best, fresh food and feed with clean drinking water. As the circus has no sponsorship, you the public, help fund us so that we can maintain and care for our beautiful animals.
  • How can I get closer to the McLaren Circus animals and learn more about them?
    Depending on the venue, and our set-up, McLaren Circus offers educational animal tours. These are held on request. Due to limit space at most venues we are not always equipped to host these tours, however all our animals are always on display, provided that your remain within the demarcated areas. Many towns across South Africa do not have any immediate access to game reserves, zoos or animal parks. For many people, the circus is the only place to see animals and learn about them. The McLaren Circus has educational information boards displayed at all the circus animal’s enclosures. The circus also presents free educational animal tours after certain matinee performances. Here the public can walk around and learn more about our beautiful animals. Schools, children charities and creches are welcome to experience our educational animal tours. If you are a school, home or creche and would like an educational tour, kindly visit our ticket office or email Reservations will need to made at least two days prior to your proposed tour date.
  • How do you teach the animals at McLaren circus to perform?
    All our animals are trained by means of positive reinforcement, patience and love. This means, our animals receive a reward and praise for any positive action displayed. Negative behaviour is simply ignored. With time, patience and repetition, the animal will understand the command and reward. Our animals are only trained to perform to their natural abilities. They do not perform anything unnatural. The positive reinforcement training method is encouraged and supported by animal welfare organizations. Our animals can be seen enjoying their performances and you can witness this when you experience our spectacular show.
  • Do any authorities inspect the McLaren Circus animals?
    The McLaren Circus does receive inspections from various animal welfare organizations throughout Southern Africa. To legally present performing animals, in South Africa, we are required to have a valid performing animals license. This document is issued by a state vet after an inspection of the animals is conducted. The NSPCA is also written into this law and one of their qualified inspectors may inspect our animals at any reasonable time. The circus site is inspected regularly. As we have a very high standard of animal care thus we always welcome animal welfare organizations visits.
  • What can you tell me about the McLaren Circus big cats?
    McLaren circus owns beautiful lions and Bengal tigers. All our big cats were born in captivity and from generations of big cats born in captivity. Our big cats are hand raised by their handlers and depend on humans for their survival. Our big cats have a large play enclosure attached to the main enclosures to play in and exercise. They are stimulated and exercised through various forms of environment stimulation activities and positive reinforcement training. Like all big cats they sleep up to 20 hours a day. Our big cats only perform to their natural abilities and do not do anything unnatural. Our big cats are ambassadors of their species and give many people the opportunity to see them close up and live. When our big cats reach an age where they can no longer perform, they will safely retire to our own fully equipped farm, where they will receive life-long care. Schools, children charities and creches are welcome to experience our educational animal tours. If your school, home or creche would like an educational tour, kindly visit our ticket office or email Reservations will need to made at least two days prior to your proposed tour date.
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