Siegfried, left, and Roy, seen in 2009,  had a popular Las Vegas show until Roy was attacked on stage in 2003.

Story highlights

Mantecore attacked Roy during a sold-out performance in 2003

Roy was left paralyzed in the attack

The show was canceled

Siegfried remembers the tiger fondly in Facebook post

CNN  — 

Mantecore, the white tiger whose co-starring role in Siegfried and Roy’s illusion-packed Las Vegas act was overshadowed by one visceral act of violence, has died. The big cat was 17.

Mantecore died March 19, wrote Siegfried Fischbacher on the duo’s Facebook page Tuesday.

The tiger had been living at the Siegfried & Roy Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage hotel.

Mantecore was a part of the long-running “Siegfried & Roy” show when it lunged at Roy Horn’s neck halfway through a sold-out performance in October 2003.

“He (Horn) looked like a rag doll in his mouth,” an audience member told CNN at the time.

Trainers quickly rushed the stage to subdue the tiger. It was Horn’s 59th birthday.

By the time emergency officials arrived, Horn had suffered massive blood loss and was in critical condition.

He also suffered a stroke and required two surgeries.

Four days after the attack, Fischbacher defended the tiger on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

“Listen, I say it was an accident,” he said, adding that if Mantecore wanted to kill his partner “it would (have happened) in no time.”

Siegfried also said that Mantecore biting Horn’s neck was similar to what a mother cat does with her cubs.

Horn did survive the attack, but was left partially paralyzed. He never returned to the stage and makes only rare public appearances. The show, too, was canceled.

In his post about Mantecore, Fischbacher wrote about the closeness he felt with the tiger.

Mantecore was one of three cubs. The cub’s mother neglected it. So Fischbacher once had to go into the tiger’s den and give it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The young cub was then cared for by Fischbacher’s mother, who bottle-fed it every three hours.

“Farewell my dear friend,” Fischbacher wrote. “Know that your image is forever burned into my heart.”

CNN’s Tina Burnside contributed to this report.