A circus is a company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other object manipulation and stunt-oriented artists.
The term 'circus' also describes the performance which has followed various formats through its 250 year modern history. Philip Astley is credited with being the 'father' of the modern circus when he opened the first circus in 1768 in England. Early circuses were almost exclusively demonstrations of equestrian skills with a few other types of acts to link the horsemanship performances. Performances developed significantly through the next fifty years, with large scale theatrical battle reenactments becoming a significant feature. The 'traditional' format, whereby a ringmaster introduces a varied selection of acts that mostly perform choreographed acts to traditional music, developed in the latter part of 19th century and continued almost universally to be the main style of circus up until the 1970s.