Animal Trainers who Trained Wild Beasts
Lion tamers have been frightening audiences for over 200 years, long before horror movies and best selling thrillers captivated us with adrenaline filled story lines. Circuses are synonymous with animal training, with the big tents being filled with elephants, lions, tigers, seals, and a myriad of other big and wild cats. Audiences would have found these animals very foreign, thus leading to the anticipation of something going awry. While most animal tamers were quite adept at training the animals, their proficiency was no match for the instinctual predatory nature of the world’s most fearsome beasts.
Lions and tigers were often the biggest victims of circus captivity and exploitation. These animals, captured of bred, were made for a life of roaming and hunting. Their capture and confinement in ill equipped, small cages only increased the aggression of these already ace predators. Irritable, poorly fed carnivores led to risky shows, but viewing an overly aggressive and abused animal added fodder as more and more people paid to see man overpower beast.
The “Man vs. Beast” act was highly popularized 1920s until the early 1960s. Famous lion tamer Clyde Beatty would put on a captivating show, where Beatty would use a bullwhip and chair to distract the lion from his own body as they danced around one another. Beatty always kept a pistol by his side in the event a lion made an unpredictable turn. Beatty is certainly the epitome of the persona of courageous lion tamer we know so well today.
Thankfully today in most countries, there are strict laws regarding animals in show business. They must be properly cared for and trained in ways that are not deemed intrusive or abusive. Many continue to protest circuses who used live animals in their shows, unhappy with the idea that animals would be exploited and mistreated simply for entertainment value. Such protest has left many circuses, including well known ones, with no other option than to close down.