Herriott, John

John Herriott


John Milton Herriott

Inducted into the Ring of Fame: 2008

Circus Profession:
Animal Trainer, Presenter, Rider

Born: 1931      Died: 2015

John Herriott

John Milton Herriott

John Herriott has had a multiplicity of roles in his professional and personal life. He is held in high regard by all the know him. He is a skilled trainer and an accomplished Ringmaster and a respected and seasoned performer. He also, unexpectedly, is an able poet dedicated to circus themes.

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Near all his life he has been in or near the circus business, likely stemming from his father Milt Herriott’s successful career as a multi-talented trainer and circus manager. Additionally John is an accomplished circus historian who frequently is recruited to speak or manage a presentation on some portion of the business. He takes great pride in his four daughters, all of whom have joined in some part of the business. His memory, despite his age, is flawless. Mary Ruth, John’s wife of more than sixty years, herself a skilled performer, was the family’s agent, money manager and seamstress. Sadly she became paralyzed in an accident while training one of her horses in 2004. Since that event John has become a caregiver. He occupies any spare time he has with his children and grandchildren’s lives and careers.


His skill as a trainer of principally hoofed animals was often used as he created animal acts which he either used or sold. Often his children would require a new act or change in their present presentations, which he would create as an addition and appealing change for them. He, in his working days, was often called on to build an act for various shows and showmen. Horses, his specialty, were their foundation. He has created four, six and twelve horse liberty acts using all sizes and types of animals from Friesians to miniature horses. His mixed animal acts, usually involving camels, zebras, llamas, miniature horses are popular and often requested. Single horse presentations, High School or dressage behaviors, were all requests he could oblige.


His career, ranging from Mills Bros. to RBBB to Royal Hanneford has given him and unusual diversity. Additionally he spent seven year at the Circus World Museum and in addition to his frequent performances, he helped then director C.P. Fox to fashion many of the components and flavors of the newly created Great Circus Parade, which were still being used by that event in the nineties. He was called on by the National Zoo in Washington D.C. to consult on various problems and events with its then director. He participated in the Circus themed presentation by the Smithsonian.


John and Mary Ruth Herriott and the circus dynasty they produced can be considered among the finest and most respected members of the nationwide show folk’s community. Few can claim similar time, experience and diversity that they have. They are considered, by knowledgeable students of the subject, as one of the circus industry’s most significant participants.


In 1977, San Diego newspaper The Union, quoted John saying “If I had to pick one scene that captures the essential element of circuses, it would be a girl on a circus horse. To me, that’s the circus.”One of his circus poems…                  ”What is the giant of thrill and laughter?”

His first love, the circus horses, comes after

           And, listed on top, ahead of all circus nouns:

Comes this line saying: “Its elephants and clowns…”







Completed by Paul Ingrassia    October 2015

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