By Peter Henssen
Jürg Jenny (1953-2019) was born on December 31, 1953 in the village of Olsberg, near Basel, in Switzerland. His family was not connected with the circus, but as a young boy, Jürg developed a fascination for big cats and decided that he will become an animal trainer. When he was fourteen years old, in 1967, he saw for the first time the famous German animal trainer Gerd Siemoneit, who was performing that season at [[Circus Knie].
Later on, during his school vacations, Jürg was allowed to help Siemoneit with his cats at his Circus Barum-Safari. In 1975, Siemoneit finally hired Jürg to become his assistant for one season—but he let him know first of the many hardships that awaited a cat trainer(English/American) An trainer or presenter of wild cats such as tigers, lions, leopards, etc.. Jürg was undeterred and, the following year, he bought a group of seven lionesses from the Künzler Zoo in Romanshorn, (a Swiss city on the Lake Constance), and built his first cage act(English/American) Act performed in a cage, such as lion or tiger acts. in just four months.
Jürg Jenny got his first circus engagement in 1977 with the Swiss Circus Stey, and remained with them for the 1978 season. In December 1977, he also made his first appearance on television in the German show Stars in der Manege. In 1978, he integrated two Siberian tigers into his group, and a little later, he added two leopards. He got further professional inspiration from the Scottish cat trainer(English/American) An trainer or presenter of wild cats such as tigers, lions, leopards, etc. Alex Kerr (a longtime fixture of Bertram Mills Circus) and the writings of circus historian, journalist and amateur cat trainer(English/American) An trainer or presenter of wild cats such as tigers, lions, leopards, etc., Henry Thétard.
A Rich European Career
His next engagements were with another Swiss circus, Circus Nock, and then with the Österreichischer Nationalzirkus (Austrian National Circus) of Elfi Althoff-Jacobi. In February 1983, he was featured at the prestigious Circus Kronebau in Munich, and in December of the same year, he was invited at the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo, where he received the "Henri Thétard Trophy," a prize traditionally presented to outstanding cat trainers. By then, his act consisted of seven lionesses, four tigers and three black leopards.
In 1985 Jürg went to work in East-Germany with the state-owned Circus Aeros and spent the Holiday season with the Dutch Cirque d'Hiver in Roermond. In 1988 he toured in Sweden with Enis Togni in association with Circus Scott, and then went to tour with Franzi Althoff's Circus Williams-Althoff. From 1991 to 1993, Jürg Jenny's act was featured at the German Circus Busch-Roland, and in 1993, he returned to the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo with a group that included now four lionesses, four tigers and three black leopards.
Jürg continued to work steadily all over Europe, appearing in France at the Fête Lilloise du Cirque and with Cirque Achille Zavatta for Holiday galas among others. In 1995 he toured with the short-lived big topThe circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) of Circus Carré in the Netherlands. After a final engagement in 1997 with Circus Royal in Switzerland, Jürg Jenny retired from performing, thus ending a twenty-three-year circus career.
Then, Jenny returned to his native village of Olsberg, where he opened a park for his animals and gave free educational presentations for the public every Sunday. In 2012, the Swiss Animal Protection organization honored him for the exemplary care and housing he provided to his animals. In 2016, Jürg was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away three years later, on November 10, 2019.From his marriage with Kveta, he had two children, Samuel and Sabrina.
Jürg Jenny is remembered as a great animal trainer who truly loved his cats and fulfilled his dreams as well as his professional goal: To show the natural beauty of his animal partners.
- Hans-Jürgen und Rosemarie Tiede, Die hohe Schule der Raubtierdressur (Kaufbeuren, Freiheit News Verlag Günter Sippert) — ISBN 3-928871-04-8
- Video: Jürg Jenny, mixed animals cage act, at the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo (1993)