- Johnny Welde III, 59, is third in generation of bear trainers in Florida
- He and wife Monica, and their son Johnny IV, live with 13 bears in Sarasota
- They claim they are not scared and loved rolling around with 1,000lb bears
14:17 EST, 5 May 2015
14:59 EST, 5 May 2015
Johnny Welde only needs the bare necessities in life – the 13 bears that live in his backyard.
While most families spend their days walking the dog or feeding the cat, the Welde family has been rolling around their Florida estate – dubbed Bearadise Ranch – for generations.
And though the 1,000lb animals could crush you with one swing, they are not at all scared.
‘We live and breathe these animals, we love them and they are a part of us,’ Monica Welde, Johnny’s wife, said.
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Happy families! The Welde family (L-R Johnny IV, Monica, and Johnny III) aren’t scared by their 13 pet bears
Normal life: The family are the latest in generations of bear trainers and spend their days playing with them
Terrifying: At 1,000lbs and eight feet tall, the bears could knock you out with one swipe of their paws
‘We know what these animals are capable of and we could read them – we would never put our children in danger.
‘In the wild, bears can be dangerous animals – but the relationship we have with them is built up over years of living with them, 365 days a year.’
The Welde family first brought bears into their ranks 89 years ago, when Johnny’s grandfather Johnny Welde I moved over from Norway.
Fascinated with bears, the elder Welde had been training the deadly animals in his home country and in 1948 he brought a circus of them to the States for his first tour.
Johnny has been training bears for movies since he was three years old
He hopes that his children will continue the trade after him, and they all live together in Bearadise Ranch
It was a roaring success – so much so that he settled in Tampa, Florida with his wife Tove and daughter Conny.
Johnny III, 59, said: ‘He came to the United States in the 40s and did a lot of different venues over here and then in the late 50s and 60s he did a lot of TV shows and movies.
‘My grandfather was performing somewhere and a talent scout saw me leading a bear around at 3-years-old and he said, “well if that bear can work with a little boy, then he can work in Hollywood.”‘
Three generations later, nothing has slowed down.
The family spend their days playing with the animals and sometimes holding shows at local events
Like the circus his grandfather created, they too perform stunts like this one, throwing hoops on the bear
Johnny III has continued to train their brood of 13 for the silver screen, and
Over the years he became a stalwart of the showbusiness animals scene, training bears for shows including Lassie and Beverley Hillbillies.
Johnny, 59, and Monica, 54, hope to see the tradition continue with their son, Johnny IV, who has been working with the animals since he was three years old.