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Marvelous Entertainment at Durov Animal Theater

Established in 1912 by Vladimir Durov, and currently being run by his great-granddaughter Natalia, the Durov Animal Theater in Moscow, Russia, continues to entertain, enthrall and amaze children (and adults) five days a week throughout the year. This truly unique Moscow institution features a big stage where horses, Afgan wolfhounds, dogs, monkeys, cows, a hippopotamus, tigers, chimpanzees and pelicans showcase their incredible abilities. Poodles, a monkey, a white porcupine, a raccoon, foxes, mice and more are the stars of the Durov Animal Theater small stage.

Descended from an old noble Russian family, the Durovs are known for being somewhat eccentric, as well as for their deep love of animals. Nadezhda Durova, great-grandmother of Vladimir Durov, ran away from home, disguised herself as a man and fought as a Russian cavalry officer against the French in 1812, becoming the first woman to receive the St. George’s Cross. Nadezhda Durova’s love of animals and courage to break tradition lived on in her great-grandsons, Vladimir and Anatoly, who rejected their aristocratic heritage in favor of becoming famous circus performers in the early 1900s. Anatoly favored clowning and satire, while Vladimir focused on his natural affinity with animals.

Vladimir Durov developed what was considered to be a revolutionary animal training technique at the time. This technique was based on a system of rewards rather than punishments. He fully believed that cruelty in any form is humiliating and only kindness can achieve anything worthwhile. He made an intense study of the movements of the various animals he was training and devised a series of acts and tricks which incorporated and extended the animals’ natural behavior. An excellent example of this utilization of an animal’s natural abilities is the sea lion’s juggling talent, clearly a refinement of the movement used in the wild to toss up fish before it is swallowed.

To this day, Vladimir Durov’s methods continue to be used and it is a matter of great pride at the Durov Animal Theater that no handler has ever used a whip or cane on an animal. Animal welfare groups generally condemn the use of wild animals, such as bears and tigers, for performances of this type, however, when witnessing the obvious affection between trainers and their animals and the attention given to the animals’ welfare, it is agreed that this is no ordinary animal theater or circus.

Another tradition started by Vladimir Durov, which is continued today, is the resolve to ensure that theater tickets will never be more expensive than a loaf of bread. This has opened up the opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children to enjoy the antics of a chimpanzee’s tea party, the spectacle of Fenya the monkey trying to decide which hat to wear and Tishka the raccoon doing the laundry, plus much more. A trip to the Durov Animal Theater in Moscow to enjoy the show and explore the museum, adds a magical touch to this fascinating Russian city.


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