By Christian Hamel
Daniel Suskov was born May 25, 1949 in Paris, France. His father, Otto Suskov, had been one of Alfred Court’s assistant trainers, before entering in the service of the brothers Amar after WWII, in the circuses of whom he presented for many years all sorts of wild and domestic animals.
Daniel grew up in the circus. He was still a teenager when he was hired by Jo Clavel to work in Jean Richard’s zoo in Ermenonville, near Paris—where he eventually made his debut in front of an audience as a cat trainer(English/American) An trainer or presenter of wild cats such as tigers, lions, leopards, etc. at age twenty, with Jean Richard’s own group of five lionesses. The year was 1969.
In 1970, with the help of his father and Jo Clavel, Daniel trained a superb group of six Atlas lions Jean Richard had purchased at the Leipzig zoo—one of the last places were genuine Atlas lions were still bred. The following year (1971) Daniel Suskov made his circus debut with that group at Cirque Amar, and then spent the 1972 and 1973 seasons at Cirque Jean Richard.
Circus Knie hired Suskov’s spectacular lion act for its 1974 season, and then it was at Munich’s Circus Kronebau for this circus’s first 1975 winter program. Suskov was subsequently featured at Cirque Jean Richard from 1975 to 1977, with a particularly successful halt at Brussels’ |Cirque Royal, in Belgium, for Jean-Pierre Richard’s Olympiades du Cirque in 1976. On this occasion, Suskov’s act was shown on French television.
Like his father, Daniel is a versatile animal trainer. He worked notably with Mary Chipperfield’s elephants at Cirque Jean Richard in 1977, putting together two African females and two Indian males in a four-animal ensemble. The following year, he presented Jean Richard’s lions at the East German Circus Berolina, as well as two young Asian elephants Jean Richard had purchased in 1973 for the short-lived Expédition Jungle, an itinerant menagerie he had launched in 1974.
Back to France in 1979, Daniel Suskov, spent the season with Firmin Bouglione’s Cirque Amar, where he also presented a liberty"Liberty act", "Horses at liberty": Unmounted horses presented from the center of the ring by an equestrian directing his charges with his voice, body movements, and signals from a ''chambrière'' (French), or long whip. act. For the winter season, he was at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. Then he took a hiatus from the circus and spent most of the following year in a Safari park near Liège, in Belgium.
For the 1980-1981 Holiday season, Daniel was at Jean Richard’s Nouvel Hippodrome de Paris, set up in Paris at the Porte de Pantin. His lions had aged and were becoming irascible, putting their trainer in a difficult situation on increasingly frequent occasions. He eventually retired them, and began the 1981 season at Cirque Jean Richard without his cats.
Across the Atlantic
Later that year, he joined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’s Blue Unit in the United States, where he presented Charly Baumann’s tigers during the matinee shows, and trained a group of exotic animals. It is during this engagement with Ringling that his daughter, Sandrine, debuted as an animal trainer in her own right.
Daniel returned to France in 1988, where he worked for Gilbert Edelstein’s Cirque Pinder, where he presented the circus’s elephants. He returned to North America the following year to present the group of tigers that Louis Knie had just sold to Tarzan Zerbini. He will also present a group of white tigers from John Cuneo’s breeding farm.
After a short stint with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Suskov returned to Europe and joined the tour of Cirque Alexandre Bouglione in Belgium, where he presented a group of African elephants, and assisted Alexandre Bouglione with his group of tigers. He was still in Belgium at the beginning of 1992, where he joined the Toy Star Circus, before accepting a contract with one of Frances’s many circuses renting the Zavatta title—this one under the management of Rico Micheletty.
In 1993, Daniel Suskov joined the Cirque Moreno-Bormann, where he trained a group of exotic animals, presented the circus’s elephants, and even put together a riding tiger act (a tiger riding a horse). His next contract was with André-Joseph Bouglione brand new Cirque Joseph Bouglione, where he trained a group of tigers, a liberty"Liberty act", "Horses at liberty": Unmounted horses presented from the center of the ring by an equestrian directing his charges with his voice, body movements, and signals from a ''chambrière'' (French), or long whip. act, and a group of exotic animals. His daughter, Sandrine, would eventually marry André-Joseph Bouglione.
Daniel remained with Cirque Joseph Bouglione until 1996. In 1997, he was with Mario Masson’s Cirque Maximum, before spending the winter season with Cirque Alexis Grüss in Paris, where he presented a group of tigers, and helped Firmin Grüss handle his difficult Indian elephant, Synda. In 1998, He presented his tigers at Raoul Gibault’s Cirque Medrano, and put together a group of three African elephants that Gibault had just purchased from the British Circus Hofmann.
Since 1999, Daniel Suskov has divided his time between amusement parks, where he works during the season, and short engagements in circuses, festivals, and special events. He owns twenty tigers, which he breeds and trains with the help of his wife, Annette, née Molinoff.
- Video: Daniel Suskov and his lions at the Cirque Royal, Brussels (1976).