Fossett Brothers Circus, a judge heard, has been walking a financial tightrope for years, and is to ask the Circuit Civil Court to consider giving the company protection against its creditors under examinership.
Judge Jacqueline Linnane was told that despite a sometimes shaky balancing of income against expenditure since 2010 the Lucan, Co Dublin, fun firm faced potential collapse.
Barrister Ross Gorman said an independent accountant's report on the business indicated that under a scheme of examinership the company had a reasonable prospect of survival that would save the jobs of 16 employees and the future of the circus.
Mr Gorman told the court that while Fossett Brothers was not seeking the immediate appointment of an interim examiner, this may be the only outcome when the application returned before the court in a fortnight.
The company was insolvent.
He said the current company directors Robert Fossett junior and Edward Fossett junior would advertise their application for the appointment of an examiner and put on notice the Revenue, Dublin County Council and the executor of wills of three deceased founding directors.
Judge Linnane heard that the famous family business could trace its origins back to the 1880s to a circus troupe started by Cork man George Lowe, who had toured Ireland with a travelling troupe before emigrating to the United States.
His participation in a number of variety shows there brought him to the attention of William Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, whose troupe he joined, specialising in the fields of magic, juggling and trick-riding horses.
Lowe had returned to Ireland in 1887 and embarked on tours of his home country with his own circus troupe.
In 1918 an accomplished horseman Edward Fossett joined Mr Lowe's circus eventually marrying his daughter, Mona Lowe.
The couple had six children, all of whom followed their parents into the business eventually setting up the Edward Fossett and Sons Circus which has been handed down through the family.
The court heard that a family dispute led to High Court proceedings which started in 1992 and did not end until 2008 with a €500,000 settlement bill which still hangs over the company.
Mr Gorman told Judge Linnane that accountant Joseph Walsh had agreed to act as examiner should the court consider such an appointment necessary.