Inducted into the Ring of Fame: 1999
Circus Profession: Bear Trainer-Presenter
Albert Rix’s early circus years were full of adventure. His trained bears danced to jazz music and did handstands and other tricks for snacks. In 1950, they were booked in Madison Square Garden as “The only feature of its kind on Earth.” He even appeared with his “educated” bears in the 1952 Cecil B. DeMille film, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Later in life, he was recognized as one of the foremost authorities on the breeding, care and training of show bears. Asked the secret of his success, his daughter Susan said, “It came from his heart.”
Rix was 13 when he learned to train bears at the renowned Stellingen Zoo in West Germany. During World War II, he narrowly escaped death when he missed a circus train steaming across war-torn Europe. The train — and all the animals on board — were destroyed.
Drafted into the German army, he went to the Russian front, where he was shot and captured. He met his wife, Maria, while recovering in Germany. The couple came to the United States with the circus in 1950 after one of the Ringling brothers spotted his act.
Leaving the circus in 1962 to start his own show and bear breeding farm, he worked for years creating the leafy refuge for his collection of Syrian brown bears, polar bears, swans and other animals.
“He always loved animals,” his daughter Jeanette Rix said. “His whole life was around the bears.”