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Grizzly Adams. Illustration from T. H. Hittell, The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California, 1860. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92873).

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Adams, Grizzly (22 October 1812–25 October 1860), mountain man and wild animal tamer, was born John Adams in Medway, Massachusetts, the son of Eleazar Adams and Sybil Capen. Adams apparently served an apprenticeship as a cobbler, but when he was twenty-one he began hunting and trapping animals, for showmen, in the woods of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. He delighted in his work, which was cut short when he tried to control an unruly Bengal tiger. In doing this favor for an exhibitor, Adams was badly mangled. When he recovered his health, he went back to making boots and shoes....

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Beatty, Clyde Raymond (10 June 1903–19 July 1965), animal trainer and circus owner, was born in Bainbridge, Ohio, the son of James Edward Beatty and Margaret Everhart, farmers. After first trying at age thirteen to run away to join the circus, he succeeded at fifteen, following his freshman year at Bainbridge High School....

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Ditmars, Raymond Lee (22 June 1876–12 May 1942), zoo curator and popular writer on reptiles, was born in Newark, New Jersey, son of John Van Harlingen Ditmars, a furniture dealer and Confederate veteran, and Mary Knaus. When Raymond was six the family moved to New York City. His interest in nature began with visits to Central Park, which had a small menagerie and natural areas teeming with snakes and other creatures, and to the salt marshes on the outskirts of Brooklyn, where his family spent the summer. These experiences captivated his interest, and, although his family intended for him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, his mind was on snakes....

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Perkins, Marlin (28 March 1905–14 June 1986), zoo director and television personality, was born Richard Marlin Perkins in Carthage, Missouri, the son of Joseph Dudley Perkins, a lawyer and judge, and Mynta Mae Miller. Perkins developed his fascination with animals as a child, progressing from a pet dog to the various creatures found on the family farm. “Not just snakes, I also kept possums, raccoons, turtles, frogs, baby coyotes, anything I could find,” he recalled ( ...

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Rarey, John Solomon (06 December 1827–04 October 1866), "Great American Horse Tamer", “Great American Horse Tamer,” was born in Groveport, Ohio, the son of Adam Rarey, a farmer and tavern keeper, and Mary Catherine Pontius. A Methodist, Rarey attended Ohio Wesleyan University.

Introduced to horse taming as a farm boy, Rarey was seriously injured in early attempts to train horses forcibly. After softening his approach, he attracted clients as early as age twelve. To test and refine his developing theories of gentler training, Rarey consulted other tamers but found their methods unsatisfactory....