Families hoping for a little excitement at the circus got more than they bargained for, after one of the world’s biggest cats attacked their handler.

A video that went viral on social media shows the terrifying moment a lion tamer quickly escaped a lioness attack.

The footage shows lionesses Vega, 5, and Santa entering the caged stage area where they quickly pounce onto each other and begin rolling around.

This behavior does not impress the tamer, identified as Maxim Orlov, who moves closer in a bid to interrupt play-time for the lionesses.

Two lionesses lying and rolling around in Moshkovo, Russia, on May 22, 2021. (The Siberian Times Screenshot via TheBL/Twitter)

However, one of the predators suddenly runs towards Orlov, claws and bites into his right leg. A struggle begins, with the tamer repeatedly hitting the lioness with his whip rod until she finally releases him and backs away several seconds later.

Tamer Maxim Orlov confronts Vega in Moshkovo, Russia, on May 22, 2021. (The Siberian Times Screenshot via TheBL/Twitter)

Orlov tries to chase away the lioness by waving his whip in the air. However, after the lioness circles around, she once again attacks the whip rod then the tamer.

The lioness knocks Orlov onto the ground, and once again bites into his leg. The other lioness slowly approaches and watches with interest.

Before the second lioness can attack, Orlov uses the whip rod to force the animal to move away. He keeps hitting the closer lioness until she releases his leg, and lets him stand up again.

At this point, several members of the audience realize the animal is dangerous, and begin to stand up and leave the venue. A pregnant woman claims she suffered an epileptic seizure while watching the terrifying attack unfold, according to the New York Post.

Orlov finally backed out of the stage area while maintaining eye-contact with the lionesses at all times.

The tamer was quickly transported to a local hospital emergency room in Moshkovo, 3416km (2143 miles) east of Moscow.

After receiving urgent medical attention he admitted working with predators is a high-risk profession.

“Cases such as today are very rare but animals are animals,” he said according to the Daily Mail.

Orlov observed Vega exhibiting a “wayward” temper since she was a cub, and her condition further worsened due to fewer circus shows during the pandemic.

His employer, the Ural Traveling Circus, has decided to donate the animal to the zoo.

Animal welfare supporters welcomed the decision and urged the Russian Government to ban live circus animals.

“This only helps the world in the push to be rid of live animal circuses, they should be banned,” Doug Hobbs said on Twitter.

“Wild animals are not meant to perform for humans! Outlaw such acts worldwide!” MI Forest added on Twitter.

The BL understands the Ural Travelling Circus legally bought Vega, and raised her since she was a cub.

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