Frank Bostock – Lion Tamer!

It’ll be fantastic when people asked you what you did for a living and you replied ‘lion tamer!’. But Frank Bostock could say that!

He was born in Basford, Derbyshire in 1866 and started his career in small circuses around the country, but by the time he died in 1912, he had travelled the world putting on shows in France and the U.S, survived attacks by lions and tigers and was known worldwide as ‘The Animal King’.

‘Dreamland – Bostock’s show at Coney Island, New York.

In 1878, aged only 12 years old, he took to the circus arena to replace an injured animal trainer and from then he never looked back, quickly building a reputation as a showman with animals. He was the first person to realise big cats were afraid of chairs – his animal training manual, published in 1903 and still in print today, is a blueprint for lion tamers as we recognise them today.

However, lion taming was not the only string to Bostock’s bow – he was also the inventor of the circular big top and a shrewd businessman whose publicity stunts and dramatic shows attracted headlines and crowds across the globe.

Bostock’s dedication to his animal colleagues was well-known – at the time of his death he owned more than 1,000 animals and was respected for treating them kindly, despite being at the receiving end of several maulings. However, it was the injuries sustained when he rescued trainer Jack Bonavita – who had previously lost a hand after a mauling from a lion – that were said to have contributed to his death from a stroke at the young age of 46.

Frank Bostock’s grave.

Bostock died in London on October 8 1912, having returned to the UK to live. He is buried in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, London, with a sculpture of a sleeping lion laying on his tomb.

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