The Sad Music of Dancing Bears
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The Sad Music of Dancing Bears

Once upon a time, there was a mother bear who is fondly cuddling her cute playful cubs. Unknowingly from a distance, several evil eyes are keenly watching her every move. When she is about to get up and walk, a sharp thing cut through her skin, then another, and more. Then finally something struck her heart. With her dying eyes, she helplessly look while her cubs are being dragged away into the man's land. Into a place much wilder than the wild....

As their name suggests, wild animals like bears must be found in the wild, in their natural habitat where they dance to the melody of clapping leaves or be lulled by the hum of the afternoon breeze. But for some bears, they have to dance to a different music, an evil tune played by the strings of exploitation and cruelty. They have to dance to the rhythm of the reins that made them helpless and degraded. They have to dance….

Dancing bears, also known as tame bears, are tourist attractions in many parts of the world. They are wild bears captured when they were still young, though some of them are born and bred in captivity. The practice of taming bears for entertainment began in the Indus Valley Civilization. Romani, an ethnic group which originated in the Indian Subcontinent, were known to tame bears since the Middle Ages up until the end of the 14th century. The practice continued in places like India, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Siberia.

In India, gypsies hunt sloth bear cubs from judges and train them to dance. To accomplish the poachers would look for four- to six-month-old young cubs and when they find one, they kill the mother and gets the cubs. Then, they would trim the cubs’ teeth with hammers and chop off their claws. They would put a nose ring and a metal muzzle on the bears’snout which are all attached to a staff through a rope. With the use of the staff, the bear is manipulated to perform a dance. However, it is not actually a “dance”, it is only a reflex action of the bear from the constant pulling of the staff by the madari or entertainer. The trainers make the bears move by pulling on the rope, which causes great pain, and beating the bears if they do not obey. The owners, being poor themselves, cannot feed the bears a nutritionally sound diet even if they want to, and many bears lose their fur or suffer from cataracts and go blind.


However, Indian authorities have taken action against this cruelty and made bear dancing illegal. They confiscated the animals and sent them to rescue centers. It was reported in December 2009 that all remaining dancing bears have been freed.

Similarly in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia tamed Syrian Brown Bears from the mountainous regions of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. The practice was also banned due to Islamic beliefs and customs.

However, there are still places where bear dancing is being practiced like in Siberia where tribal people catch cubs for this purpose. Though the tradition is fading in Europe, there are reports of continued practice like the number of incidences of dancing bears as street entertainment in Spain in 2007.

Sources of literaure and images:,, and

Related articles on environmental issues: The Evil Touch of Tiger Fur, The Bitter Cup of Fossil Water, The Evil Taste of Shark Fin Soup

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Comments (10)

Glad many places are stopping this torture! Thank you for raising awareness on this issue.

It is a tough thing for tourists too because they feel sorry for the bear they give the owner money, but this just encourages them to keep bears in such a state.  I suppose a person who sees this would be better to buy some dog food for the bear rather than to give the owner money.  All in all a sad cruelty, even where illegal though, I am sure it continues. 

Thank you for creating awareness on this issue.  The photos sicken me.

Glad to hear India is stopping bear dancing. It should be outlawed everywhere in my opinion.

I have finally recommeded your good alarm article about this cruel action to bears.

I have no special love for bears, I hunt them for sport and eat their meat, but I am totally against torturing any animal.

Excellent work kabayan.

Wow, that makes me so sad :(

Wow, I did not know about this, how sad. I appreciate that you are telling us about this to spread the word so it will stop.

Excellent article once again. This bear dancing should be outlawed everywhere.

Thank you for this great post!