The ‘Polar Bear Princess’, Ursula Blütchen, was born in Dresden, Germany on June 6, 1927 to an average working class family. Widely regarded as the most sensational animal trainer to have ever lived, Ursula’s unusual career didn’t begin until she was her mid 20’s. Initially hired in 1952 as a cleaning woman for the soviet controlled East German Circus Busch – it was a romance with an assistant elephant trainer the first kindled her interest in animal training.
It’s somewhat preordained that Ursula would find herself drawn to bears. Her name, after all, is derived from the Latin word ‘ursus’ – which literally translates to bear. The fact the Ursula was so diminutive in stature, standing only five foot one inch in height, only emphasized the girth of the beasts she tamed and her affinity for the massive polar bear, the largest carnivore walking the earth, made Ursula a star throughout the world.
In the United States, Ursala and her amazing bears were feature attritions for Ringling Brothers in the 70’s and 80’s. Her act was without equal and The Greatest Show on Earth was made even greater by her presence. In Europe, Ursula toured with Circus Kronebau in Munich, Circus Berolina, Circus Knie in Switzerland, Orfei’s Golden Circus in Italy and again with Circus Busch in East Germany. She toured Japan with the GDR State Circus where she was immortalized in the form of an official postage stamp.
At her peak, Ursula commanded a cage consisting of fourteen Polar Bears and four Kodiaks for her act. Her kindnesses towards her animals, as well as the quality of her training techniques were legendary and yet, in her time, twice her animals mauled Ursula and an assistant was slain by a Kodiak bear. Regardless, Ursala continued to treat her bears as children, each had a name and she entrusted each with her life
As time wore on, Ursula’s troupe of trained bears slowly dwindled as age eroded both the trainer and her performers.
Ursula continued to perform until December of 1998 with one final tour of the now reunited and democratic Germany as well as Belgium wit the Circus Busch-Berlin. Classified as a civil servant under the East German regime, Ursula was able to draw a state pension while her remaining animals found homes in various German zoos.
On March 3, 2010 – in her eighty-third year – the Polar Bear Princess passed away in her native home city of Dresden.