Thursday, May 22, 2008

The King of Beasts



Why Dogs Are So Often Seen With Trained Lions — Edward Darling, the Trainer, Tells All About the Processes of Training and Teaching Them.

"You have often heard it remarked of some person or other that he could not be driven, but must be led," said Edward Darling, the famous lion tamer. "If you have ever tried to accomplish anything with a person so disposed, you will appreciate that a great amount of discretion and discrimination must be exercised if you desire to be successful. Keeping in mind the difficulties that present themselves in a human individual who cannot be driven, you will at once concede that a lion tamer's task is not an easy one when I tell you that the king of beasts can neither be led nor driven. I mean this literally. If you succeed in having a lion permit you to lead him — and I tell you that it requires no little patience and work to accomplish this apparently simple trick — you can rest assured that the balance of his training will come easy.

"Many people have wondered why dogs always accompanied lions while performing on the stage. I have heard some offer the explanation that they were there for the protection of the tamer. Others claimed that there was a psychological connection between the dogs and the lions, by which the former had the latter hypnotized, so that the least bark or movement from the dog would bring the lion to a realization of what he was then to do. While these theories may sound very well, they are all wrong. The dogs are simply there for example. They are of course the most domestic of all animals, and their association with the lions makes the latter take on some of their habits.

"From the time a lion is first placed in the trainer's hands, which is at about the age of 9 months, young dogs are placed in its cage. At first there is some antagonism shown, but after they have been together for awhile they begin to romp and play with each other like kittens. Lions are usually trained in pairs — that is, two in one cage. This is done to make them bolder. If they have company, they do not have the same fear of the trainer as they would if alone. And it may seem strange to you to know that a trainer dreads fear in a lion more than boldness. If when you enter a cage a lion sneaks away from you and commences to jump about, striking its head against the bars as if it would dash its brains out, seeking to escape in every possible way, then look out to protect yourself, for as sure as death that lion, after having exhausted every way he supposed he could gain his liberty, will turn his attention to you and deal with you in a manner not the most polite. A timid lion is to be dreaded, but a bold one you can always tell how to deal with. The only protection the trainer takes with him when he first enters a cage is a board about four feet long. This is to hold up in front of him in case the beast makes a plunge at him. The tamer usually enters the cage as if he had some business there, such as sweeping or cleaning, doing his work, apparently not paying the slightest attention to the lions. He keeps this up for a long time, and gradually the lions become accustomed to his presence. Then he offers them food out of his hand, cautiously, for the lion usually makes a grab for his food with his paw first, and there is danger of having an arm taken off. After this is accomplished he begins to stroke the beasts with his stick, which shows them it is not for beating them, then with his hand rewarding each advance with meat.

"After a lion has permitted his trainer to stroke his back without a remonstrance he is considered to know the difference between right and wrong, and from that time on is punished for bad behavior. Before this no punishment has been administered, as the prime object is to first get the confidence of the beasts and let them know what you want them to do. But after the trainer has petted and rewarded him for it, should the lion show any desire to go back to his primeval wildness and make any attempt to claw or bite his master, then the whip is applied and not sparingly either. He is whipped and whipped until his will is broken and he permits a renewal of the familiarity. I have seen lions almost beaten to death before they would give in, but at last they were conquered. The trainer has become the master, and, strangely, the punishments inflicted are never remembered against him by the lion.

"The first and most difficult step, as I have said before, is teaching them to be led. The idea of being led seems to be contrary to the lion's nature. And no wonder, for what king would not revolt at such treatment? But the king of beasts can be taught, although it requires many long and severe lessons before he will bring himself down to it. Even after a lion has been fully trained you can never be absolutely sure of him. They are very peculiar animals. Sometimes they will not get out of sorts for years, yet in a day will develop nasty traits that make them decidedly dangerous. These spells only last, luckily, for two or three days, when they return to the former condition. We work upon the jealous feelings of a lion with great success while training one. I have seen some animals that could never have been conquered had it not been for the jealousy that was created in them. They became so jealous of dogs, and other lions that were having a great deal of attention paid to them by the trainer that they absolutely forgot themselves and came up to him as the other beasts had done. Naturally we got very much attached to our own animals, but you cannot develop the same affection for a lion as you can for a dog, I suppose because you cannot have the lion always with you. My lions know no one but myself. I attend to them exclusively, with the exception of cleaning out the cages. I feed them every morning and let them exercise, so that they are almost part of my family." — Pittsburg Dispatch.

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