This is the terrifying moment a lion suddenly attacked a circus trainer in front of a large audience of children and parents in Ukraine.
The crowd screamed in fear as well-known Hamada Kouta was overpowered by an irate big cat which sank its teeth into his arm and clawed him.
A video shows how the 32-year-old was floored by the beast which suddenly turned aggressive in the ring.
His arm, leg and back were mauled and clawed before he managed to fight the animal off.
The horrific attack was mid-act in a circus performance in Lugansk, a city in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.
Kouta – from Egypt who has worked in Russian circuses for many years – fought off the lion which then retreated.
He then faced up to it as the predator eyed him for a new attack. Finally, the big cat retreated and ran out of the ring to its cage.
A mother watching with her two children said: ‘My heart stopped when the lion pounced at the trainer.’
‘I called up one lion, and the second one attacked me from the front,’ said Kouta afterwards as he showed his scratches.
‘I stopped him in the middle of the ring calmed him down but he refused to return to his sitting position. I stepped backwards, there was a stand behind me, I hit it and fell.
‘The lion jumped at me and bit me – but thank God not on my neck. He immediately let me go. My back, arm and leg were hurt.
‘Scars from two claws and one tooth are on my leg, tooth marks on my arm, one 4 centimetres (one and a half inches) deep from three claws on my back.’
He works with ten lions and all those in the ring returned to their cages immediately after the shocking attack, he said.
‘I calmly called them back, because there were children in the audience.
‘The most important thing for me is to see children in the audience. Of course, I was covered in blood, but I asked everybody to calm down, and started the performance all over again, from the beginning.’
Kouta said the troupe of lions were unsettled because they were made to perform soon after arriving in a new location.
‘They did not have time to adapt, because we arrived and immediately began to perform,’ he said.
‘They were in stress, so it led to attack.’
He added: ‘They can be moody, like people. For example, you can wake up in the morning in the bad mood. That’s it, the whole day will be like this. They are just the same.’
He has ‘scars everywhere’ on his body.
He said: ‘Every scar is an experience. I trust my predators more than people. People are the most dangerous creatures.
‘You can talk to a person, be friends with him, and then you turn your back to him and he stabs you.
‘Predators are different, they are serious, they never cheat. But there is a red line, if you step over – it may go wrong way.
‘When an animal attacks a trainer, it is 99 per cent the trainer’s mistake. Anyway, they are my children, so I know anything can happen. But it will never end with death, because they are my children.
‘I know them and I trust them more than I trust people. It was all right, I calmed down the spectators and we went on. Of course, I became lame, it hurts everywhere, because these are teeth.
‘One tooth was inside the muscle, right there and it is serious, and down it is serious too, but it’s okay.’
Travelling circuses were recently banned in Ukrainian capital Kiev.
But Lugansk is currently outside Kiev’s rule.