"a bear in a crinoline twirled strangely upon a board stage defined by a row of tallow candles"
A dancing bear performing in the United States (c. 1900)
Public DomainA dancing bear performing in the United States (c. 1900) - Credit: Hugh Magnum Archives
Dancing bear in Sussex, England (c. 1900)
Public DomainDancing bear in Sussex, England (c. 1900) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The cruel practice of forcing bears to dance for people's entertainment dates back at least to the early Middle Ages, and still existed in many parts of the world, including the U.S., at the turn of the 20th century.

Cubs would be caught from the wild and, using inhumane methods, trained to stand on their hind paws to ‘dance’ on command. Sometimes a nose ring and metal muzzle would be attached to the bear's snout and a staff used to manipulate the bear, causing it to simulate a dance.

Banned in most countries by the early 20th century, bear dancing still continues in some parts of the world, particularly in Eastern Europe, India and Pakistan.


Dancing bears at Ours, France (1900)
Public DomainDancing bear at Ours, France (1900) - Credit: Eugène Trutat