Final curtain call for master horseman

Fredy Knie Sr. was recognised as a master of horse dressage Keystone Archive

Fredy Knie Senior, an impresario and master horse trainer whose act enthralled generations of Swiss, has died after a long illness.

This content was published on October 12, 2003 - 15:07

Born in 1920 in Geneva, Knie was the fifth generation of his family to belong to the Knie circus troupe.

As a child, Fredy Knie Sr quickly won a reputation for his work with horses. Aged nine, he received his first horse, a Hanover stallion named "Excellence" as a birthday gift from his father.

By the age of 12, he was presented to Queen Astrid and the future King Leopold of Belgium, after becoming the youngest rider in the so-called haute école - the prancing style associated with the Royal Lipizzan stallions of Vienna's Spanish Riding School.

He later received a string of awards for his circus act, and earned the respect of horse specialists for his dressage skills outside the ring.

Knie served as a director of the family circus for 50 years, starting in 1941 when he and his younger brother, Rolf, an elephant trainer, inherited the leadership. Rolf died in 1997, aged 75.

Show goes on

Fredy Knie Jr, his eldest son and likewise a horse trainer, currently runs the circus alongside Rolf Knie's son Franco.

Fredy Knie Sr's other son, also called Rolf, a clown and animal trainer at the circus, is also an artist and film-maker.

No details of funeral arrangements were immediately available. A spokesman said that the Knie circus, currently on a Swiss tour, would honour show business tradition and continue its schedule without interruption, despite the death.

The Knie circus, which is celebrating its bicentenary, was founded by Friedrich Knie in Vienna in 1803 as the Artistes and Tightrope-walkers Society . The medical student-turned-entertainer was the son of a physician to Austria's Empress Maria-Theresa.

The name was changed in 1919 to the Knie Brothers' Swiss National Circus when Knie Sr's father, Frederic, was one of four brothers to take it over.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Knie family has run a circus since 1803.
Fredy Knie Sr was the fifth generation of the family to oversee the circus, a tradition that continues to this day.
The circus is currently on its 85th national tour, spending 241 days on the road.
It has announced that, as is the tradition, the show will go despite Fredy Knie's death.

End of insertion

This article was automatically imported from our old content management system. If you see any display errors, please let us know:

Comments under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Join the conversation!

With a SWI account, you have the opportunity to contribute on our website.

You can Login or register here.