In the 1960s, while earlier lion tamers could get big cats to do tricks, David Hoover of the Clyde Beatty Circus, was the first to train the “Total Lion.”
Hoover brought a philosophy to lion taming that gave credence to an individual lion’s set of fears and motivations.
Sound complicated and a little too touchy feely? Simply put: Each lion responds to different stimuli in different ways.
If one lion shows a distaste for the sound of spoons clinking together, the trainer should use that to continuously break up that lion’s concentration.
If pointy kitchen chairs do the trick with another lion, then the trainer has his instrument of choice for that particular lion.
The sound of a whip is a useful tool for many big cats, which is why it is a common sight within the lions’ cage at the circus.
Why do they want to break concentration? Because a thinking lion is a dangerous lion, in that most cats’ thought process goes something like: “A moving thing! Food! Ready? Pounce! Tear! Eat!”
Primarily, Hoover believes, a trainer must never let a lion know how powerful it is.
If that happens, no amount of training will work.
Hoover says that the well-trained cat believes that it can’t hurt its trainer, so that even if a trainer is hurt while handling the lion, he or she should not leave the cage quickly, this would let on to the lion that it holds power over the trainer.
If that happens, “you can’t handle that animal anymore,” claimed Hoover.