The Skiing Elephant

Below is a photograph of a true spectacle in the history of performing circuses, an elephant with the ability to water ski.


The picture was taken on March 23, 1956 at a performance by the Ringling Circus at an attraction called Sunshine Springs in the town of Sarasota, Florida. One of their most popular acts at the time, the Aqua belles were a group of acrobats who specialized, as the name suggests, in performing fantastic feats on the water.

Usually by being pulled by a boat as seen in the picture, their accomplishments include being able to stack up to three performers, one atop the other, while they were still in motion. That which fans of the spectacle seem to love the most, though, was the elephant that the group actually trained to water ski in their routine with them.

“Queenie” as the elephant was named became a star of the Ringling Circus throughout the fifties. The general public mostly responded to the pachyderm performer so positively because of the absolute absurd humor of the act. The same absurd humor that defined the Ringling Circus was so especially present in this one act. Having an animal generally considered slow and ungraceful water ski and perform with acrobats renowned for their grace on the water just completely defied the people’s expectations. Ringling became famous for their elephant acts thanks in part to Queenie. Today they have retired their performing elephants and sent them to live on the newly established Ringling’s Center for the Conservation of Elephants.