Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Proske #2

Proske-2, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Born into a well-to-do, aristocratic family, Proske, who had no animal training experience of any kind, first realized that he wanted to become a wild animal trainer after seeing a lion act in a circus when he was 11. When he was barely 13, he ran away from home to become an apprentice with a small circus. A year or so later he had a chance encounter with Emerie Hansler, Austria’s only wild animal dealer. Impressed by Proske’s enthusiasm, Hansler hired him as a baggage boy for an expedition he was sending to British East Africa to collect animals. While in Africa, Proske worked with five 4-month-old lion cubs that the expedition had captured. Using cubes of meat as a reward, he “trained” them to perform a few simple tricks. Hansler was so delighted that, after the expedition returned to Europe, he bought Proske a group of two-year-old male lions for him to train and then present during a circus tour through Bohemia in 1913. (Proske’s account of how he went from raw amateur to polished performer is rather sketchy and lacking in specific detail. He did express appreciation for the knowledge and advice he picked up from other trainers whom he met along the way.) By the end of 1913, and while still a teenager, he received star billing when his lion act was booked into a major theater in Vienna.