Friday, December 26, 2008

Ursula Bottcher #3


Ursula Bottcher.18, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.


Ursula Bottcher's career spanned forty-seven years. Her training abilities and success with her Polar Bears earned her the title of the "Brilliant Baroness of Bears".

Ms. Bottcher was born in Dresden, Germany on June 6, 1927, making her 81. Her father was a road construction engineer. At fifteen she left home and joined the circus.

Ms. Bottcher joined the Circus Roland Busch in 1952 beginning her circus career as a cleaning lady and usher. She learned a number of the circus arts and soon graduated to training lions, tigers and leopards. In 1959 Ms. Bottcher took over an act of Polar Bears and Brown Bears.

In 1963 Ms. Bottcher was presented by the East German government with eight Polar Bear cubs and asked to build them into an act. She was teamed with another ex-lion trainer Manfred Horn. Mr. Horn became Ms. Bottcher's partner both in and outside t! he arena.

In 1974 Ms. Bottcher was awarded the Ernst Renke Plas kett Award, or the Circus Oscar for her Polar Bear Act.

The East German government paid tribute to Ms. Bottcher when they placed her image on a postage stamp. The stamp pictured Ms. Bottcher with one of her Polar Bears, Alaska, performing the Todekuss (Death Kiss); also know as the Zuckerkuss (Sugar Kiss). In this "kiss", Alaska would take a piece of sugar from Ms. Bottcher's lips.

In 1976 Ursula Bottcher and her Polar Bears came to the United States and Ringling Brothers. They remained in the United States from 1976 to 1981. Ms. Bottcher did two tours with Ringling Brothers Blue Unit, 1976-77, and 1980-81. In between her tours, I am not positive, but I believe that Ms. Bottcher may have appeared at the Ringling Brothers Circus World in Florida during that time.

While presenting their act, in October 1990, Manfred Horn was attacked by a Kodiak Bear. He died the following day from the injuries sustained in the attack.

The last date I was able to find for a performance by Ms. Bottcher and her bears was 1995 for Circus Berolina.

Ms. Bottcher wrote and published a book about her performing career in 1999. The book titled "Kleine Frau, Barenstark" which translates into "Small Woman, Bear Strong" was written in German. It is currently out of print.

After her retirement from performing Ms. Bottcher returned to her hometown of Dresden and currently resides there.

In reading the computer generated translations of the articles that I found about Ms. Bottcher, I got the impression that she was not happy with the way her career ended nor how the government unceremonious! ly sent her Polar Bears away to different zoos. She always regarded her Polar Bears as her children.

7 comments:

Bud said...

Yes ; this Act was at RB,B&B Circus World 1978 to 1980 .
They even built an Air Conditioned Dwelling with a Swimming Pool for the Polar Bears to play in every day . Ursula , Manfred & Michael Wurm ( assistant ) had the most Precise , Pristine Act I ever saw & yes Ursula did seam to Truly LOVE those Bears ; as the amount of Attention they All gave to them was Very Ovious . This Big Powerfull Act moved at a gracefull , slow , steady pace with Large Heavy Props . Ursula along with Manfred ( who kinda remained out of the Spotlight ) made it " LOOK " like there was nothing to it : but Do It .
( which was not so )
Ursula frolicking around with thoes 10 Pristine White Polar Bears was just Beautifull in thoes Spotlights !

Circuslover said...

This is what I now about Ursula:

1999 : Circus Busch Roland
1998 : Cirkusz Richter
1995 : Berliner Seepark with Circus Berolina
1988 : Circus Busch Roland
1984 : Circus Knie
1983 : Circus Busch
1981 - 1982: Circus Ringling Bros.
1978 - 1980: RBBB Circus World
1976 - 1977: Circus Ringling Bros.
1972 – 1973 : Cirque Jean Richard
1960 - 1971: State Circus DDR (start polar bears)
1955 - 1959 : Zirkus Barlay (lions)

Wade G. Burck said...

Henry,
"the Ernst Renke Plas kett Award, or the Circus Oscar?" Everybody tells me a Monte Carlo clown is the Circus Oscar. How many of those Oscar deals does this industry have?
I can truly, truly, empathize and feel what Ursula felt at the end result of her beautiful act.
Wade Burck

Anonymous said...

Boy, that's at least a couple of tons of bears on those props. Amazing how strong steel tubing is

Anonymous said...

I had the priviledge of being a perfomer on the Blue Unit in 1980 & 1981, and recall seeing Miss Ursula exit the cage with a huge gash on her leg, her tights torn and blood-soaked. I ran to her in a panic, to see if I could help. I said "what happened, are you okay?" Miss Ursula answered "It was just Neptune, he was playing with me," I said "playing with you, are you sure!?" She answered "my dear, if he was not playing with me, we would not be having this conversation." What an awesome lady and great performer she was.

Ellie Potts Barrett said...

Hi Buckles..
I remember working with Ursula and Manfred at Circus World..and I am shocked to read that Manfred died! I was very good friends at the time with Michael Wurm...Those bears were so beautiful!
Ellie Potts Barrett
and please send Barbara my regards!

Anonymous said...

Ursula and Manfred also did the 1989 season with Busch Roland.

Alaska was a great Bear, he died during the 1989 season with ~Busch Roland