Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lions and Tigers and Bears - oh my!






My education has been very remiss. Apparently tigers and lions riding horses is de rigueur. In fact, any large predatory animal riding horses seems to be a regular form of entertainment in other parts of the world, most notably China, where it is a main attraction of many zoos/circuses. Bears are also made to ride motorcycles, monkeys ride dogs and on it goes, any animal combination you can think of. Hoofpot first alerted me to this fact after seeing a picture in a magazine of a lion riding a horse. I was intrigued by this. Regrettably my first reaction was 'Cool!'. I can understand how you can get a predator not to kill a prey animal (having had cats and a dwarf rabbit who coexisted happily together, to the fact they used to groom each other) but I find it harder to imagine how you can train a horse not to be afraid of a lion when your average equid is afraid of a paper bag in a bush. Then again, if you can get a horse to accept a human on its back, why not a lion or a tiger or a bear? (especially when the bear is chained to the horse's back by his nose)Saying that, I don't know what methods these places use to force their animals into such arrangements. I would love to think it was through kindness and positive reinforcement training, but I very much doubt it. However, I still thought it was pretty cool and was looking forward to blogging about it when I found another video on youtube. It was a man being attacked (for real) by a lion in a circus. I found the video shocking because I have seen the same look in domesticated animals as the lion had when they get a bone or favoured treat and they are not going to give it up for anything, and it was horrible to see that look when the bone was replaced by a man. It is also horrifying to see how frail we really are, and it was disturbing to see the lion killed. The lion was eventually shot and the man, badly mauled and even more badly shocked, received medical attention. What exactly happened or if the man lived, I don't know. The video was not in English. Now, what really upset me about this clip were the comments posted by other youtubers. Many thought it was fake, because of the way the lion died (they had obviously never seen an animal die before). Others thought a dog who was in the clip was a lion cub and thought it was sad that it should see its father die in front of it (well, when you can't tell a lion cub from a dog, it isn't surprising that you have such sentiments) but what really got to me was that over 90% of the comments were in sympathy for the lion and thought the man should have been shot and allowed to be eaten. What did he expect, messing with nature? Now, I don't approve of animals being treated cruelly and you have to respect all animals, especially ones like lions who can kill you so easily and it was unpleasant to see the lion killed but my sympathy was with THE MAN! I don't know how anyone can watch someone suffering so much, no matter what circumstances led into the attack, and think he deserved it and should be left to be eaten. And then what? Allow the lion free to kill and eat any other people it met? The sad fact is, that lion could not be returned to the wild (even if they had wanted to) and could never be trusted around people again. What option was left but death? It saddens me that we have come to a stage where the death of a lion who was chomping down on a human being is seen as more tragic than the (possibly fatal) attack of a member of our own species. If I ever meet the people who commented on this video, and they happen to be attacked by a lion, I know how they will like to be treated - just leave the lion to his meal and walk away while they are chewed up.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the man and the lion and i am very glad i didn't see it. I found the other photos amazing. I can't say i really approve of large prey animals riding small ponies but it is an incrediable feat. I would like to think that they are trained kindly and enjoy thier work but I have my suspicious about China as it is not a country well known for human rights or animal rights (I'm thinking of all the birds being killed by not allowing them roost and the cormorants being trained to fish)- having said that, its hard to imagine that the animals would work the way they do without some rapport with their trainer. I was fascinated the way the tiger mounted so neatly on the pony, I felt sorry for the pony as the tiger looked heavy but the tiger needed quite a lot of effort to remain completely still and balanced on the saddle and he did, you could even see his haunches absorbing the movement of the trot. I thought the bear looked a bit more mischevious!! He had quite a glint in his eye when riding the bike! But great post

Valpot said...

I agree with Anonymous. I don't think it's right (unless the animals are treated really well and are all great buddies) but it is amazing training!

valpot said...

PS I love the first photo!

Inkpot said...

It is a difficult position all right Anon (no pun intended). It is an amazing feat to see a tiger or a lion or a bear (although the poor bear was tied on to the horse, so perhaps training wasn't involved so much there)riding a horse and certainly in the videos of the tigers riding horses both animals seem very calm with each other. There is another video of a tiger riding a horse with a little platform on the saddle and they both seemed very calm and relaxed about it. However, unfortunately, a lot of these animals are badly treated, starved and beaten. One Chinese zoo that has riding tigers and bears also has a demonstration of a live kill, where a tiger (or tigers, often muzzled) are set upon a live cow. Now, it is all very well for animals to hunt in the wild but to stage such a hunt in captivity for the entertainment of the public is barbaric and reminds me of the Roman games. Anyway, I guess the point of this ramble is that if the animals were well treated and kindly trained it is an amazing feat to have a tiger, or lion, riding a horse. Well it is an amazing feat anyway, but it takes all joy out of it to think of the animals being badly treated.

I have paraphrased you Valpot, but you said it a lot better. The first photo is amazing all right. Makes me think of my Lions (Luxor, Lenster et al) riding into battle and transforming on horseback. What a battle scene THAT would make in the movie!

Valpot said...

Yes, I agree, Inkpot - it would be an amazing battle scene! It's the intense look on the their faces!

T.R.L. said...

I want goat balance. That's amazing. And I never thought of horses backs being that strong. Don't Lions and Tigers weigh upwards of a thousand pounds? Amazing.