The animals caused quite a stir, with one dromedary – a male named Simba – getting hit by a truck near the western Swedish town Ulricehamn early Tuesday morning.
The truck driver, named Patrick, told Swedish Radio that he could not believe his eyes when he saw what he thought were "strange-looking moose" on the road at around 5 a.m.
The animals turned out to be a flock of camels and dromedaries that had apparently escaped from Circus Maximum, which had just set up camp near the road outside Ulricehamn. The truck driver accidentally hit one of the dromedaries in a sharp curve. His windshield was shattered.
Incidents involving exotic stray animals seem to occur every spring and summer in Sweden as circuses start touring the country. So are circuses really bad at keeping track of their animals?
”No, but they're very good at PR,” Jonas Wahlström, director of the aquarium at the Skansen zoo in Stockholm, tells Radio Sweden. He thinks most incidents involving circus animals on the run happen on purpose - and this is an old circus trick, he says.
“In the good old days when circuses went through the city to their camps, by coincidence there was always an old car - mostly an old Volkswagen - that one of the elephants sat on and the next day the picture would be in all newspapers. Most circuses don't have elephants today so they have to stick to escaped dromedaries,” says Wahlström.
Smaller circuses that need PR but can't afford expensive advertising campaigns tend to let some animals loose before their shows open, claims Wahlström and he thinks it is likely that is what happened this morning - when the three dromedaries and two camels belonging to Circus Maximum turned up by the road near Ulricehamn.
So was it just a way of making people notice that the circus is in town?
“The question is so stupid I don't know if I want to answer it,” says Helena Schicht, tour manager at Circus Maximum. She insists circuses do not let animals out on purpose.
“We treat our animals like people treat their pets - like a dog, cat, hamster or rabbit. These are our animals and they also cost a lot of money. A trained dromedary costs a lot of money. Of course we don't let them out just so that people can see them because accidents can happen,” says Schicht.
So how could this morning’s accident happen? How could the camels and dromedaries escape?
“I don’t know,” says Schicht. “Somehow, it was leaning against a gate and I really don't know exactly what happened but we will make sure it won't happen again.”