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The circus was founded in 1803 by the Knie family and has existed in its present form since 1919 when it changed from an open arena to a covered tent. The circus has been long famous for its animals and now operates a zoo (Knie's Kinderzoo) and a museum in Rapperswil. In 1999 Franco Knie was named Best Animal Tamer at the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo.
Today the circus is an enterprise with about 200 employees, operated by Frédy and Franco Knie in partnership with insurance company Swiss Life.
Princess Stéphanie of Monaco traveled with the circus for some months in 2001 and 2002 while in a relationship with Franco Knie.
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