A lion-tamer's wife, influenced by her sister, takes their son away; after his wife dies, he tries to get his son back.
At a circus Windy O'Shaughnessy (Wallace Beery) teaches little Stubby (Spanky McFarland) how to train a lion cub. Windy tells Dan Hastings (Willard Robertson) that the trapeze artist, his wife Cora O'Shaughnessy (Leona Maricle), is upset because of her sister Martha (Sara Haden). Windy and Martha argue. Windy goes to a party and signs a new contract with a bonus so that he can send Stubby to school. Windy sleeps in a monkey cage, and Jeff (Clarence Muse) wakes him. Windy learns that Cora left with Stubby and his money. Windy tries a trick and is mauled by a tiger until it is shot.
Windy gets out of the hospital missing an arm and searches for Stubby. Windy sees the Hastings circus parade, and Hastings tells him that Cora died on a trapeze and that Stubby is in a military school. Windy asks Hastings for his job back, and Hastings advances him money. Stubby (Jackie Cooper) is with Martha and doesn't want to go with Windy for the summer. Stubby cries, and Major Winslow (Henry Stephenson) gives him to Windy, who is glad to take him. Stubby tries to run from the train and says he is sorry he forgot his orders to stay with Windy. Stubby cries in bed, and Windy says he tried to find him and is sorry, asking for a chance. Windy lies to Hastings that Stubby is glad to be with him. The animals in the cages growl at Windy, who tells Hastings that he lost his nerve. Windy asks to be a porter and begs to stay for three months.
Jeff gives Stubby a dog, and the boy is happy until he learns it was from Windy; then he rejects it, but the dog comes back. A detective reports to Martha and her lawyer that Windy is only getting room and board for odd jobs. In the rain Jeff tells Stubby that Windy lost his arm because Cora took him away. Stubby unwraps a picture of his mother that is from Windy, who says how he loved her. Stubby asks Windy how he lost his arm. Stubby sleeps in the bed with Windy. Windy tells Hastings he wants to do the trick. On the train in the storm Windy goes to the tiger cage, while Hastings and Stubby try to stop him. Windy tells Stubby not to be afraid and goes in the cage.
Martha arrives for Stubby, and Windy asks her to stop hating him. Stubby tells her that he loves Windy. Martha argues, and Windy hits her. Windy performs with an elephant and a tiger while Martha puts Stubby's uniform on him. Stubby runs to Windy, who uses a whip to make the tiger get on the elephant and go through a ring of fire. Stubby tells Windy that he is great, and Windy is glad that he will stay.
This dramatic story shows how hatred can poison one parent against another and divide the feelings of the child. Windy shows he is capable of mastering the bestial nature by overcoming his fear.