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The first Soviet trainer: 40 years alone with lions

The Internet is full of jokes about strong and independent women who celebrate birthdays in the company of their many cats. Jokes are jokes, but in the history of our country, there really was an artist who devoted her entire life to animals from the cat family. Irina Bugrimova-star of the Soviet circus, the first female tamer, whose only love has always been lions.

 

The fate of Irina Bugrimova was not easy: since childhood, she was involved in sports and dreamed of a circus career. In the circus arena, she made her debut as an acrobat, but over the years has mastered the profession of a trainer. The difficulty was that Irina had to become a pioneer in this field, and in search of a strategy for communicating with predators, she had to rely only on her own intuition.

The name of Irina Bugrimova thundered throughout the USSR when she first performed with Alexander Buslaev. The joint number was built on an acrobatic trick: in front of the astonished audience, the artists “soared” on a sledge from a huge height from under the dome of the circus. This was in 1931, and a few years later, Irina realized that she was ready to change her occupation. She quickly responded to the offer to master the training received from the management of the circus. Her first charges were horses, the second-leopards, but the third-lion cubs, named in jest by Gaius, Julius and Caesar. It was the third attempt that was decisive, and Irina decided for herself which animals she was most interested in working with.

 

Despite the fact that Irina raised three lion cubs almost from birth, Gaius and Caesar almost killed her when they grew up. Trainers explain that in the life of each animal there comes a critical moment when it can attack the handler. This is what happened during one of the performances, only thanks to the protection of Caesar and the rapid reaction of Alexander Buslaev, the trainer was able to save. The treatment was difficult, the artist’s leg was severely damaged. After rehabilitation, the brave woman decided not to give up and continue training, for the lions, her reappearance in their cage was a sign of her strength, since then the animals were obedient to her.
By the way, Caesar has always remained a favorite of Irina. He performed with her for 23 years (for comparison, in the wild, lions live on average about 14 years), his departure from the arena was a real tragedy for the trainer. The animal painfully experienced each absence on the stage, protesting, began to beat its muzzle against the iron bars of the cage. This could not continue for long, and Irene decided to put the decrepit Caesar to sleep.
Irina Bugrimova herself delighted the audience with her performances until the age of 67, and after many years she helped young trainers. Her training was gentle, and her attitude to animals was very caring. In total, Irina Bugrimova’s track record included about 100 four-legged students. Lions performed incredible tricks, and the audience was delighted: the animals rode motorcycles, soared under the dome on a swing, laid out “carpet” … Irina became the first woman who decided to perform a famous trick: put her head in the mouth of a predator.

 

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