Dancing Bears in European Royal Courts

By | November 16, 2018

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Bear Dance in Rome, etching by Bartolomeo Pinelli. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

For centuries, the royal courts of Europe sought out unique forms of entertainment, from minstrels to jugglers to jesters. But one particularly popular, yet terrible cruel, form of entertainment for the European royals involved dancing bears…yes, real, live bears that had been trained to dance. In most cases, it was roving bands of gypsies who trained these bears to perform for the upper class, making both groups responsible for the cruelty that these animals endured. 

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Yaroslavl Coat Of Arms

People were Fascinated by Bears

Bears held a certain degree of fascination for the people of Europe and around the world. Fierce, powerful and strong, the bear is an intimidating and fearsome animal. Plenty of humans have been killed by dangerous bears. But as much as they are feared, humans are still attracted to bears. Perhaps we admire the strength and power of the animal and feel a kinship with another apex predator. Maybe that’s why bears are featured prominently on the coat of arms of many European ruling families.