Gunther Gebel-Williams

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Gunther Gebel-Williams
Gunther Gebel-Williams with one of his trained leopards, circa 1977.
Gunther Gebel

(1934-09-12)September 12, 1934
DiedJuly 19, 2001(2001-07-19) (aged 66)
Venice, Florida, United States
Resting placeVenice Memorial Gardens, Florida
OccupationAnimal trainer
Jeanette Williams
(m. 1960; div. 1967)
Sigrid Neubauer
(m. 1968)

Gunther Gebel-Williams (September 12, 1934 – July 19, 2001) was an animal trainer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1968 to 1990.

Early life[edit]

Gebel was born in Schweidnitz, Lower Silesia (now Świdnica, Poland). As a child, he and his mother relocated to Germany, in all probability as part of the expulsion of ethnic Germans, when Silesia was ceded to Poland after World War II. His father was missing in the Soviet Union.


Gebel and his mother started working for Circus Williams in Germany in 1947. When its owner suddenly died, the owner's widow asked the 18-year-old Gebel to become the animal trainer which began his career. He then took on the additional surname Williams.

Gebel-Williams came to prominence during the early days of television when the circus was still a popular form of entertainment. His appearances on television shows like The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, in addition to his work with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, accelerated his renown as a tamer primarily of elephants and tigers.[3][2]

After retiring from the ring, he took a management position as Vice President of Animal Care for the circus. He passed down his skills as an animal trainer and performer to his son, Mark.[1]


Gebel-Williams died of a brain tumor on July 19, 2001, in Venice, Florida.[4]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vegas, Dee (August 2, 2001). "Obituary: Gunther Gebel-Williams". The Guardian. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Severo, Richard (July 20, 2001). "Gunther Gebel-Williams, Circus Animal Trainer, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  3. ^ Reinmuth, Gary (November 20, 1995). "A Tough Act To Follow: Gebel-williams Turns The Family Business Over To His Son". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  4. ^ "Animal trainer Gebel-Williams dies". July 20, 2001. Archived from the original on March 7, 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2008. Gunther Gebel-Williams, the world-renowned circus animal trainer, died of cancer Thursday at his home in Venice, Florida. He was 66 years old and had been undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, a spokeswoman for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said.