Viola the circus elephant with history of escapes breaks free again in Montana, heads toward casino slots

PETA called Viola the elephant's escape a 'desperate break for freedom'

Viola the Elephant runs loose through streets of Montana after escaping circus: video

An elephant named Viola recently ran away from a circus after being frightened by a vehicle and went on a short escapade in Butte, Montana, before being captured. (Source: Brittany McGinnis via Storyful)

An elephant named Viola recently caused chaos in Butte, Montana, after escaping a circus and roaming the streets on her own.

Astonishing video shows the Asian elephant casually walking through a four-lane road in Butte on Tuesday, dodging moving cars on her way towards a casino building.

Eyewitness Matayah Smith told Fox News Digital that she was in her car with her husband when she first noticed the majestic creature. She said her husband had alerted her to the elephant.

"My initial reaction was that my husband had lost his mind, then when I looked up, it was [a] surprise," she said. 


Split image of Viola walking through street and with handlers

Viola the elephant walked through the streets of Butte, Montana, before being caught by her handlers. (Matayah Utrayle-Shaylene Smith / LOCAL NEWS X /TMX)

"It was concerning for the first few seconds, but the townspeople of Butte respected her space. Drivers stayed within a safe distance and backed up when she came towards them."

Concern then turned into amusement as the locals stopped to watch where the elephant would go next.

"As she made her way off the road, the concerns for her safety went down more," Smith explained.

"This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. You can see the circus in most places on the West Coast during the summer, but I think it’s pretty rare [that] the elephant makes her way to the slot machines."


Split image of Viola being wrangled and going into bus

Viola's handlers eventually captured the elephant, who was unharmed during the incident. (Matayah Utrayle-Shaylene Smith / LOCAL NEWS X /TMX)

Sheriff Ed Lester of the Butte-Silver Bow Law Enforcement Department told Fox News Digital that the animal was "spooked by a vehicle" and escaped her handlers briefly.

"The elephant was walking in the street for a block or two but was then loaded into a trailer by circus staff," Lester said, adding that the incident resulted in no injuries to either humans or Viola.

"Glad it ended well and as far as I know the show went on as scheduled!" the sheriff added.


Wide image of elephant walking past casino

Viola the elephant made her way towards a casino building at the end of her journey through Butte. (Matayah Utrayle-Shaylene Smith / LOCAL NEWS X /TMX)

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told Fox News Digital that this was not the elderly elephant's first rodeo: she reportedly escaped from circuses in 2010 and 2014. 

According to a PETA investigation, Viola was forced to perform even while suffering chronically-swollen feet in 2021.

PETA says that two circuses are involved in the incident: one that she performed in this week, and one that supplied her to her current show. PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler says that her supplier has been abusing her for decades, and called her escape a "desperate break for freedom."

"PETA has submitted an urgent complaint to federal authorities over the circus’s failure to protect Viola and the public from this frightened animal’s attempts to flee her weapon-wielding handler and urges everyone to help elephants like Viola by refusing to buy a ticket to any circus that still forces them to perform." Metzer said.

Split images of Viola the elephant roaming

Montana residents excitedly watched where Viola would walk next. (Matayah Utrayle-Shaylene Smith / LOCAL NEWS X /TMX)

Fox News Digital reached out to Jordan World Circus, who reportedly handled Viola, for a statement, but has not heard back.

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Andrea Vacchiano is a breaking news writer for Fox News Digital and Fox Business. You can follow her on X at @andrea_vacch or send story tips to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Authored by Andrea Vacchiano via FoxNews April 17th 2024