Fair show features big cats

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Barbara and Yaro Hoffmann don't put their heads in the mouths of their tigers anymore. They say it's too dangerous.

But kissing a 400-pound royal Bengal isn't the safest thing either.

The Hoffmanns will be performing at various times each day until the end of the SEMO District Fair at their "Exotic Endangered Cats of the World" exhibit.

"You have to handle them very carefully," Barbara Hoffmann said. "You don't want to make anything mad that can eat you."

Although she jokes about it, the Hoffmanns go to extreme measures to make sure their tigers, leopards and panther receive the proper care they need.

On an average day, the couple buys 80 pounds of chicken and 20 pounds of beef to feed the animals. They also make sure the large felines take vitamins.

Every night before bed the Hoffmanns bring each of the exotic cats out of their cages to give them some exercise. On Sunday night there was a minor incident between the panther and a tiger while they were exercising.

"You don't put the panther and tiger in the same area to exercise together. You can let them perform together but not exercise," Barbara Hoffmann said. "The panther was in the area playing, and there was a small hole under tarp where the tiger could see it."

The tiger reached out from its cage and scratched the panther's paw. The panther required medical attention from a local veterinarian, Sean Byrd.

"Dr. Byrd was so great," Barbara Hoffman said. "He handled that panther like any other cat."

The Hoffmanns have 16 pets with them at the fair, including tigers, leopards, a miniature horse, a monkey, dogs and the panther, who won't be performing due to his injury.

Yaro Hoffmann is an eighth-generation circus performer, and his wife, an animal lover, married into the profession.

"We started out when my husband's aunt had two baby black panthers for sale," Barbara Hoffmann said. "Our collection just grew from there."

jfreeze@semissourian.com

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