japonisme: sawade's tiger

19 June 2009

sawade's tiger


A terrible event was soon to be the subject of another cable. In his big carnivores group Richard Sawade had a young tiger which he had brought up from infancy. It was called Nik and was his great pet. It used to go round with him like a big sheep-dog. But one evening none other than this tiger attacked him and ripped up his shoulder and upper arm.

Fortunately, Sawade was able to grip a bar of the cage with the other hand, and, being a man of athletic strength beyond the ordinary, he succeeded in preventing the animal getting at his neck. His fearless assistant, Rudolf Matthies, came running up and as close as possible fired blank cartridges into the tiger's jaws, and the wooden cap of the cartridge, at that short range, hit the animal.

Indeed, some splinters also wounded Sawade in the back, but the necessary result was achieved the tiger at once began to gnaw at its own wounds, and with his wooden pole Matthies could drive the animal away.

We all held our breath. Slowly, Sawade loosened his hold on the bar. Everybody expected him to fall. But, his face contorted with pain, he now went back into the ring, drove all his animals out of the central cage, bowed rather curtly, and only then, streaming with blood, collapsed in the paddock.

Thank Heaven, medical aid was immediately at hand. The surgeons of the German hospital saved his life. For weeks he lay, terribly hurt, struggling against the blood poisoning which is so frequently a complication of carnivorous animal wounds. A lung inflammation hindered the recovery, which this brave man -- later general manager of our travelling circus -- owed solely to iron will and an iron constitution.

A carnivorous animal always remains a carnivorous animal. Whether caught fully grown or brought up from infancy on the bottle makes no difference whatsoever. Gratitude and faithfulness are virtues in our human ambit of emotions, and not to be imagined unconditionally into animals, which are in the power of other instincts.

After this accident, Rudolf Matthies took over Sawade's animal group, from which of course I removed the attacker. Matthies not only did his outstanding teacher every honour, but himself became a first-class tiger trainer, the only one, indeed, later to be awarded the German Animal Protection Medal.

-- Lorenz Hagenbeck, 1955 *

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Anonymous Evan said...

& history repeated itself with Sigfried & Roy. It's hard to know when that big pussycat's gonna reveal it's real stripes. even domestic kittys aren't far from the wild. I don't know how many times I've seen/experienced a cat go from purring to all teeth & claws for no apparent reason. Of course, the old posters are great! There's something about how things were composed back then...

19 June, 2009 11:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

you know, i *thought* i remembered something like that. then there was that guy who spent all his time like in the arctic being friends with bears, who ate him.

and yes. that composition, in a way, is what this blog is all about!

19 June, 2009 11:56  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh and yeah--about 'house cats.' i don't think i ever made that connection before but you are undoubtedly right! so thank you for that.

19 June, 2009 11:58  
Blogger John hopper said...

Domestic cats are never far from the wild. It also depends on what size you are. Have you ever seen the movie 'The Incredible Shrinking Man'? His pat tabby was fine until he shrank to the size of an action man and suddenly that adorable tabby had blood lust in his eyes and a human to hunt!

20 June, 2009 14:28  
Blogger lotusgreen said...


20 June, 2009 14:53  
Blogger John hopper said...

Maybe you need to be into 1950s 1960s sci-fi. Wrong subject for the blog I know :-)

22 June, 2009 05:05  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hee hee hee

i was SO into 1950s/60s science fiction -- in high school there was this one guy in particular -- we went through it so fast that i remember him coming over with a whole guitar-case full of books to trade for the ones i'd collected.

do the words 'nightmares & geezenstacks' mean anything to you? :^)

22 June, 2009 05:22  
Blogger John hopper said...

No 'Nightmares & Geezenstacks' didn't mean anything to me, but I Googled it and now it does. What a great sounding book, how did I miss it I wonder?

23 June, 2009 14:52  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

too young ;^)

23 June, 2009 17:50  

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