As he led the bear to the side of the ring, the animal pounced on him in a sudden attack.

A circus trainer was mauled by a huge bear during a performance in front of terrified children.

The horrific incident was caught on camera by one of the spectators when the trainer ordered the brown bear to push a wheelbarrow on two feet in the show in the Karelia region of Russia.

The trainer is seen leading the 270kg beast towards the side of the ring before it suddenly turns ferocious and pins him to the ground.

Children sitting only a few feet away - with no protective barrier - are heard screaming as another circus employee kicks the animal.

The animal was reportedly prodded with an electric shock device, as the audience fled for the only exit in the travelling circus' big top.

The trainer was believed to be injured however no details have been given.

Mum-of-one Galina Gurieva, 27, who filmed the shocking scene said: "My knees are still trembling.

"I was shocked there was no fence for the safety of spectators, given the size of the bear."

Another audience said: "It was an enormous bear, and they lost control of him."

The bear was forced to walk on its feet as it pushed a wheelbarrow to its trainer.

One added: "At first, for a few seconds, while recording the video, everyone thought it was a script.

"But when the assistant started kicking the bear and pulled out the shocker, the panic started.

"People got up and ran to the exit."

Even after the bear was given an electric shock it "had time to walk in a frenzied state in the arena, thus terrifying the people".

It is understood that the brown bear is a star attraction of the Anshlag Tent Circus and the show was named as 'Bow-legged and the Wheelbarrow'.

Spectators including young children screamed and fled the scene.

Police and local safety officials have launched an investigation into the incident.

Travelling circuses with live animal performances remain popular in Russia despite growing campaigns for bans or curbs on such shows.