Open main menu

Doctor Dolittle's Circus, written by Hugh Lofting and published in 1924 by Frederick A. Stokes, is set in England sometime between the original story and the later voyages narrated by Stubbins. It was one of the novels in the series which was adapted into the film Doctor Dolittle.

Doctor Dolittle's Circus
First edition
AuthorHugh Lofting
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesDoctor Dolittle
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherFrederick A. Stokes
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)
Preceded byDoctor Dolittle's Post Office 
Followed byDoctor Dolittle's Zoo 


Plot summaryEdit

The story begins with Doctor John Dolittle who is looking for some money to earn to pay off a voyage to Africa. The Doctor's idea is to get the Pushmi-Pullyu into the circus but he couldn't find one until Mathew Mugg suggest a small business circus owned by the ring master Blossum. The Doctor visits Blossum and persuades him to visit his house in Puddleby to discuss the payment and rules of the Pushmi-Pullyu before its performance in the circus. The Performance goes well after the Pushmi-Pullyu is put into the show and the doctor starts earning but he also discovers the animals who are in need of their cages cleaned which Blossum doesn't co-operate with when the doctor suggests some new ways to look after the animals. The doctor then meets Sophie the Alaskan seal, who is owned by Mr Higgins and she explains to him while crying that she misses her husband Slushy who is the alpha seal so the Doctor plans an escape for Sophie. When the night comes for the escape Doctor Dolittle waits in the street while Mathew and Jip get Sophie out of the circus but the guards shut the gate before the seal came make a break for it so Mathew and his wife Theodosia distract them by luring them to Sophie's tank and pushing them in. The whole circus goes into pandemonium when they see the disappearance of Mr Higgins's seal but Sophie manages to escape eventually while the Doctor becomes worried for waiting too long. When The Doctor and Sophie reach the outskirts of the town Sophie has an idea that if they follow the river they will get to the sea quicker so they consult the ducks who tell them to go to Talbot's Bridge which will lead them to Kippet River all the way to the Bristol Coast.

The Doctor buys some lady clothes to disguise Sophie while travelling in a coach. The people in the coach grow suspicious so the Doctor and Sophie have to leave the coach. The Doctor and Sophie meet up with the same horse who the Doctor gave spectacles for his eyesight and obliges to take them in his wagon to the Kippet River while Doctor Dolittle puts on a scarecrow's outfit for disguise. When they reach the river Sophie swims most of the way and finally the doctor throws Sophie into the sea from a cliff who is still in her disguise. The doctor gets arrested by the Coastguard for throwing his wife in the sea. In the prison the Doctor see an old school friend Sir William who is now a fox hunter and that he is tried by the Doctor to stop killing foxes. The police sergeant later comes in to explain to the doctor that the coastguard made a mistake and that the doctor is free to go. When the doctor makes his way to Appledyke he meets a mother vixen called Nightshade who is on the run with her cubs from fox hunters. The Doctor hides Nightshade and her cubs in his jacket and pockets and when he discovers Sir William is on a hunt he tells the hunter's dogs to hunt elsewhere so the foxes can escape. After the doctor saves Nightshade and her cubs he goes back, by carriage, to Blossum's Circus and finds there is a talking horse called Nino who performs a series of signs to communicate. Nino falls ill so the doctor explains to Blossum that he can talk to animals and has an idea to use Beppo as a substitute talking horse for the act. Later Beppo tells the Doctor of a nice pasture for when he retires so the Doctor persuades the farmer to let him buy the farm. The pasture is turned into The Retirement Cab and Wagon Horse Association and soon afterwards the son of the farmer and his friends get paid by the Doctor to plant radishes to feed the horses with.

The Doctor then gets his animal friends, including Dub-Dub, Gub-Gub, Jip, Toby and Swizzle, to perform in a play called The Puddleby Pantomime and is approved by Mr Bellamy when the performance is done. One day Blossum makes a mysterious disappearance with the money he owes everyone and when Mathew Mugg comes back, after a search for him, to say he couldn't find him, the circus people suggest the Doctor should be the manager of the circus. The Doctor reluctantly agrees and arranges everything to his satisfaction by giving tea and peppermints to his visitors. One night the lion and the leopard ask the Doctor if they could stretch their legs by coming out of their cages. After the Doctor made them promise not to eat anybody the lion and leopard wandered around each evening but one night the lion gets lost, frightens the visitors and, because he was hungry, ate some of a farmer's chickens which the Doctor had to pay for. After the Doctor agreed with the leopard and the lion that he'd keep watch for them each time they have their night stroll he decides to let the animals take over the performances in the circus and get rid of the performing people in it so the people can enjoy it more.


  • Doctor John Dolittle – Main character a doctor who can talk to animals.
  • Mathew Mugg – Doctor Dolittle's friend who suggests Blossum's Circus.
  • Gub-Gub – Doctor Dolittle's pig.
  • Pushmi-Pullyu – The two-headed antelope who is taken to perform in Blossum's circus.
  • Jip – Doctor Dolittle's faithful dog.
  • Dub-Dub – Doctor Dolittle's housemaid who is a duck.
  • Blossum – The ringmaster of the circus.
  • Sophie – The seal who is taken against her will into the circus.
  • Sir William – Doctor Dolittle's childhood friend who hunts foxes.
  • Mr Higgins – The owner of Sophie.


Parts of the story of Doctor Dolittle's Circus featured in the 1967 film starring Rex Harrison, including the circus with the pushmi-pullyu, the fox hunt and the escape of Sophie the seal.


Welbourn, Karen W., "Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924)." Copyright 1998–2003. (Retrieved 14 February 2015.)

External linksEdit