Long before the circus came to town aboard a winding train of shining train cars, it came by wagon. In early America, small traveling circuses were referred to as “mud shows” as a result.
Why a mud show? The animals, performers, and wagons alike would show up in small town after small town across the country caked in grime and mud from their days spent crossing the country in the days before paved roads, let alone interstates, were common.
Later, with the rise of the railroad, circuses were able to grow in size, transporting more and more performers, larger animals, and bigger and better equipment. As a result, the “mud show” circuses faded away, replaced by giant traveling circuses with “big top” tents.
Article is shared from https://howtogeek.com/