Former Soviet Union countries have a circus tradition that goes back at least a century and their performers are well known around the world. The city of Lviv in Ukraine is known as the “City of Lions,” but a shocking new video gives that nickname a new meaning. Last Saturday, a performance of one of those circuses in Lviv went horribly wrong, and an American family got the horrifying footage of a pack of circus lions turning on their trainer all on video.
The video taken by American father Doug Sheperd shows the Ukrainian trainer Oleksie Pinko approaching one of the five lions in the performance with a steel rod, to which the lion reacted by lunging at Mr Pinko, pushing him to the ground. Mr Pinko regained his footing briefly, with blood dripping from his leg and arm.
The lion again lunged at the trainer and at one point almost broke through the flimsy netting protecting spectators. A second lion joined in the attack, biting down on the Pinko’s left arm. At one point, one of the lions almost leapt out of the net surrounding the ring and into the crowd. Other trainers jumped in with their rods and a trainer armed with a water cannon was able to push the lions back.
The panicked audience, including Shepherd’s own two children, screamed in terror and many were seen rushing to escape the horror as only a small fence separated them from the lions.
Pinko was able to get up and didn’t appear too injured although his clothes were tattered and torn from the lions’ paws. He was taken to the hospital to undergo emergency surgery and reportedly suffered a bite on his arm. He is reported to be in stable condition.
Doug Shepherd told CBS News, “Kids are screaming, and kids are only 10 feet away, and my family was probably 35 feet away.”
“You have a handler from outside poking through the net, and then there’s one inside who almost gets eaten. But the lions are after the trainer.”
“I was just grabbing my daughter and trying to run because I thought that they were going to come out,” Masha Shepherd, Doug’s wife, said.
“I’ve seen some great circus performances there, but my son said he does not want to go to the circus ever again and I don’t blame him”, said Mr Shepard.
This attack follows another dangerous incident a month ago at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Hotel, where a lion turned on its trainer. While that attack happened behind protective glass, what was most horrifying about this weekend’s attack is that a sheer net appears to be all that separates lions from the circus audience of roughly a thousand people — many of them small children.