Circus owner Gerry Cottle has died aged 75 after contracting coronavirus, his agent has said.
He found fame in the 1970s with his touring Gerry Cottle Circus and also presented the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus in Britain.
His agent Mark Borkowski said he was “the last of the great circus showmen”.
Cottle, who died in hospital in Bath earlier in the week, retired from the circus in 2003 and bought the Somerset tourist attraction, Wookey Hole.
Mr Borkowski said in a statement: “Gerry was a loving family man who is survived by his wife Betty and three daughters and a son, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.”
He added on Twitter that he would “never forget all the mad adventures we shared”.
At 15-years-old, Cottle ditched his O-levels and left his family in Surrey to join the circus.
He had planned to enter the circus from the age of eight after seeing a performance in Earl’s Court, London, Mr Borkowski said.
His first show was performed in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, in the summer of 1970. It had just five performers, including himself.
Last year he told The Telegraph newspaper that it had been a “terrible show” which took no money in eight weeks and closed down.
Later in his career he pioneered animal-free circus performance.