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In The Spotlight

Henrik Henricksen with medals.jpeg

HENRIK HENRICKSEN

Henrik Henricksen (1880-1952), nicknamed "Tiger-Henricksen," was, in the first half of the twentieth century, one of the greatest cat trainers of the Hagenbeck school—although his spectacular style was markedly different from that of other German cat trainers of that school. His large group of tigers (up to sixteen at times) included a giant and quite dangerous Siberian tiger named Cæsar, which he presented alone at the end of his act. His was a remarkable presentation which won him his circus title, "The Tiger King."

In his book Les Dompteurs (1929), French circus historian (and amateur cat trainer(English/American) An trainer or presenter of wild cats such as tigers, lions, leopards, etc.) Henry Thétard described Henricksen’s tiger act thus: "Henricksen’s act was truly superb. The dompteur, a blond athlete with a blushed complexion, didn’t work with the usual German phlegm. He 'started' his tigers en voltige and added interludes of bravura to his training exercises: gun firing, props shattering, all the gamut of a presentation en férocité(French) In a cage act, the presentation of big cats in a confrontational mode, stressing their dangerous nature — as opposed to ''en douceur''.. It was a beautiful combination of the two methods.”

He was born Hans Heinrich Lühr in Hamburg, Germany, on January 21, 1880. His father was a carpenter and his mother, who was French-born, a piano teacher. Very early, Hans showed a great interest in animals and, as a kid, enjoyed training mice and rats. At the age of twelve he asked the well-known cat trainer(English/American) An trainer or presenter of wild cats such as tigers, lions, leopards, etc. Julius Seeth to take him as an apprentice; a little nonplussed, Seeth responded that he would consider it once Lühr had finished school!

Eventually, Hans became a carpenter like his father. Then opportunity stroke: he landed a job at the famous Hagenbeck’s Tiergarten (zoo) at Stellingen in Hamburg. He was seventeen and soon became an apprentice to Wilhelm Hagenbeck (1850-1910). After a couple of years, he was given to present a group of fifteen polar bears trained by Hagenbeck—who was the leading specialist of these animals. (Henricksen later claimed in interviews that he was involved in expeditions to the Spitsbergen archipelago, in the Arctic, to capture some of the bears.) (more...)

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CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.

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