By Christian Hamel
Walter Milde was born March 30, 1929 in Großmochbern, near Wroclaw, in today’s Poland (then in Germany, near Breslau—the German name of Wroclaw). He made his professional circus debut as a property man at Circus Roland, in Germany, in 1950. There, he developed a passion for big cats, which led him to go and train at Erie Klant’s wild animal training center in Valkenburg, Holland.
In 1954, he became assistant to the trainer Charles Illeneb, at Billy Smart’s Circus in England, where he remained until 1959. In 1960, Milde made his debut as a full-fledged wild animal trainer, presenting himself lions and polar bears at Circus Adolf Fisher in Germany. From 1962 to 1965, he worked in Italy at Circo Darix Togni.
At the end of 1965, Walter Milde returned to Billy Smart’s Circus in England, to take over their groups of polar bears and tigers. He stayed there until 1969. Meanwhile, in 1968, he had taken over the tiger act of Walter Cupial, with which he went to Circus Krone, in Germany, where he remained until 1974. He subsequently appeared in 1975 at the Fővárosi Nagycirkusz in Budapest, and afterwards in Switzerland, at Circus Stey (1976) and Circus Olympia (1977).
Milde sold his tiger act in 1978 to the popular French trainer Tarass Boulba (Emilien Beautour), who was then working with Oscar Togni. In 1981, while he was practicing with a new group of lions and tigers at Circus Carl Busch in Germany, Walter Milde was violently attacked by one of his tigers; sadly, this accident put an end to his career.
- Video: Walter Milde, Polar Bear Act, in ITV's Live From The Hippodrome (1966)