Hudsons Circus has arrived in Mandurah, and that means a week of excitement – including a very special animal show.
Circuses have become less animal-dependent over the years, taking cues from huge productions like Cirque Du Soleil and growing concern for animal welfare.
But for Hudsons Circus, the animals that are part of the production are more than just for show.
Animal handlers Rob Joyes and Belinda McGahan run the animal side of the show, which includes horses, birds, camels and, yes, water buffalo.
The care for the animals is first and foremost in the couple’s mind, with their part of the show being based around their natural personalities and abilities, rather than stunts.
“We try to keep it a very professional show,” Mr Joyes said.
“There are a lot of shows around that have changed up their programs and formats a bit, but the feedback we get from our older customers is that they really enjoy seeing a circus they way they remember it when they were a kid.”
Of course the wariness of animals in the circus is still tangible, and something Mr Joyes and Ms McGahan have dealt with in the past, but the pair demonstrate their care for their companions in the way they get along with them.
“There were circuses in the past were animals were chained up and lead around on chains, and that’s often the image people get in their head when they think of animals in the circus,” Mr Joyes said.
“But everything about our show is about letting them be as free as possible. The animals are lead around without any chains or leads, and are free to walk around the tent.
“The barrier between them and the audience is only really low, and so if they wanted to get away, they could.
“The only time they’re really contained is when they’re in the paddock, and that’s mostly for their own protection.”
Mr Joyes puts the animal’s ability to perform and live a relatively normal life – for a circus performer, that is – down to the strong bond they develop with each animal.
“The camels came from a government culling program, they were saved from that so they came to us as babies,” he said.
“We had them with us for two years before their first performance.
“In that time, we lead them around the tent frequently when there were no people there, so they could get used to it. Everything is aimed at making sure they’re as comfortable as they can be.”
Mr Joyes said anyone who has concerns about the animals are more than welcome to come down and see for themselves.
“We think it’s really important to be transparent about these things and let people know we want them to see what we see,” Mr Joyes said.
“So anyone who wants to, come out and see the animals. They don’t bite.”