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A tame bear, often called a dancing bear, is a wild bear that is captured when the animal is young, though some of them are born and bred in captivity. Although dancing bears are still used as tourist attractions in many parts of the world, the practice has come under increasing criticism from animal rights advocates.
There exists evidence of various peoples taming bears in the Indus Valley Civilization. Statues of bears suggest that they used them for entertainment purposes. Romani have been known to tame bears since the Middle Ages up until the end of the 14th century. This practice continues in India, Bulgaria, and Siberia. Their acts are criticised by some Westerners, especially the animal rights advocacy organisation PETA
Some people in India poach sloth bear cubs from jungles and train them to dance for people. They would put a nose ring and a metal muzzle on the bear's snout, which are attached to a staff. The staff is then used to manipulate the bear, causing it to simulate a dance. Wildlife officers confiscated adult bears and cubs to send them to rescue centres located across India. The largest centre, which is open to the public, is in Agra. As of December 2009, officials have freed all of the remaining dancing bears.
Siberian tribal peoples capture cubs for use as dancing bears. This practice continues to this day.
Dancing bears were a common sight in Europe during the Middle Ages.. The practice began fading in Western Europe by the 15th century, but remained alive in Eastern Europe. Dancing bears were commonly seen in Bern, Switzerland. The depiction of a dancing bear occurs in the oldest known city seal (1224), and living bears have been kept in Bern at the town's expense since 1513 (except for a brief interval when the French removed them to Paris in 1799). Dancing bears were also a common feature at traditional winter festivals in Poland throughout the 18th century. In 2007, incidents of dancing bears used as street entertainment in Spain caused a public outcry. It is unclear whether the practice continues. Dancing bears survived in Serbia and the Former Yugoslavia through the 1980s, but it is unknown if it still exists and to what degree.
- BBC News Last Indian dancing bear set free Collected 18 Dec 2009