A Tiger in Her Tank

Ever hear of a gentle tiger tamer? Meet Sara Houcke, 22, who is descended from seven generations of European circus performers. Her current gig, putting eight Bengal tigers through their paces in the center ring and then tending to their needs between shows, is impressing audiences of the 130th edition of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. As The New York Times notes, Houcke (pronounced hook), at five feet and 10 inches and 140 pounds, shucks the bullwhips of old, as well as pistols loaded with blank rounds. In their place, she goes one on one with her cats in a slow dance. “We ‘whuffle’ together,” she says of her routine — which may not be as glamorous as it sounds. Besides also feeding the cats, notes The Times, Houcke is responsible for cleaning out their cages.

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