For over 250 years, circuses have performed in cities and towns around the world—dazzling audiences with their spectacularly skilled performers. This industry and it's worldwide boom can largely be credited to Philip Astley. Astley was an English equestrian who began putting on trick horse riding performances in London in 1768. After two years, he roped in a number of other performers to be a part of his act—including acrobats, clowns, tightrope walkers and jugglers. This became what we now know as a circus and over the next several decades, performances grew in both popularity and size.

The modern circus eventually made it's way stateside during the 1800s, thanks to another English equestrian John Bill Ricketts. Ricketts established the first American circus in Philadelphia in 1792 and in 1793, George Washington attended one of the first performances. During the 19th century, the American circus truly hit it's stride, thanks to innovators such as P.T. Barnum who began the freakshow movement.

Today, contemporary circuses are still very popular throughout the world. These days, circuses like Cirque Du Soleil include traditional circus performances with a central theme or story. Take a look at 75 of our favorite tattoos inspired by the past, present and future of circuses in the gallery below, then let us know your favorite circus act in the comments section on social media.