WRANGLER 1ST CLASS


My definition of “wrangler” was of a person who took care of horses, or of a new pair of blue jeans. That was until I met Jules Sylvester, a 6’6″ animal trainer and herpetologist who works in both movies and television. Since then I have found that movies who have any animal have wranglers to train and handle them during the filming.

Some of the films that have used his expertise are Jurassic Park, Casino Royale, Something About Mary, the chimpanzees in Project X, the snakes in the pit in Indiana Jones, and Out of Africa where he trotted along in front of the lions.

jules 2

Born in Devon in 1950, Jules and his family moved to Kenya where he began catching snakes when he was l6 years old. He served in the Rhodesian Light Infantry during the Rhodesian Bush War in 1973-74. Today he owns Reptile Rentals which provides a variety of animals for films, photo shoots and commercials. “Vermin wranglers is what we are” he says in his soft British accent. “Everything nobody likes, we’ve got it.” Asked once how he trained snakes, he laughed and said “You can’t make a snake do anything they don’t want to. They’re not that smart and I’m not that clever. This is more like reptile management.”

Jules and his delightful wife, Sue, who came from Zimbabwe as a small child, are friends of my daughter and her family. They married in 1987, and I was privileged to paint their wedding portrait.

075 Mr. and Mrs. Jules Sylvester watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

After visiting Jules’s snake collection a number of years ago, one grandson, now a wildlife biologist, and a young friend armed with a homemade snare, went snake hunting in the hills behind their home in Southern California. When our son-in-law came home for lunch, he found stretched on the fence a six foot rattlesnake skin and meat of the critter roasting away on the barbeque with plates and napkins waiting on the table. His advice to the boys “Get that mess cleaned up before your mother comes home.”

brady snake

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

8 thoughts on “WRANGLER 1ST CLASS”

  1. I’m not exactly scared of snakes, but I’d just as soon strike a mutual non-aggression pact with them. We had some in Liberia that were extraordinarily dangerous. One was called the three-step snake. If it bit you, you had about three steps left before you were a goner.

    I do admire people who can handle them. Around here, you have to know their habits, especially during flood times. The ones that have adapted to water are everywhere, and the ones who haven’t would just as soon climb you as a tree to get out of the water.

    Your grandson and his friend would have been right at home at the Sweetwater, TX rattlesnake roundup. They have four days of fun, capturing snakes, showing them off, frying them, having a parade, electing a queen — everything you could want from a fine civic festival.

    That’s a beautiful portrait by the way. What a treasure for them!

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  2. I must say I am not a lover of snakes, my stomach turns over and I quickly retreat, although during one period as a child, I joined in catching and trapping gopher snakes. I think the fascination for kids comes from trying to feel superior and macho, though obviously some people develop a real liking for them. Apparently it was a good way for a kid to earn money when Jules was young in Kenya; so much a snake.

    My friend was on her regular morning walk near her home awhile back and was confronted with a very large lazy python coiled in the middle of the trail. Nothing daunted, she raced back home and got a very large plastic garbage can and popped it over him while she called the authorities. Apparently someone’s pet had escaped.

    My daughter in Southern Calif. has had “snake training” for her dogs. They train them in avoidance. I watched one dog react to the sudden appearance of one on his doorstep.

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  3. Now I know why a student with a first-class degree in mathematics at Cambridge is called a wrangler. Maths must be quite some animal to tame.

    How lucky Mr and Mrs Sylvester were to have such a picture painted of them.

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