Posts Tagged ‘Lion’

These photos were taken at the Ongava Game Reserve in Namibia.  A black-backed jackal jumps a male lion.

The lion sits on the jackal.

It is hard to tell if these two are playing or fighting.

The lion could have crushed the jackal if it wanted to,  but lions don’t normally kill jackals. Just not enough meat on a jackal for a lion to bother.

Perhaps the two are just playing a bit.  After all, they both are social species.

However, lions might be good allies for a jackal. They keep the leopards away, and we all know that leopards love to eat jackals and dogs.

Still, these are pretty amazing photos.



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A lion ate this tame barn owl at the Colchester Zoo.

From The London Evening Standard:

Children visiting a zoo were left in tears after an owl taking part in a display was caught and eaten by lions.

Families were horrified when a female lion “clubbed” the bird out of the air before a male pounced and devoured it in front of them.

The barn owl, called Ash, had been taking part in a falconry display with her handler at Colchester Zoo when she accidentally flew over the lion enclosure. Although she landed safely on the side, she was said to have lost her footing and fallen. Seconds later she was killed.

Gavin Duthie, from Colchester, had taken his two-year-old son Daniel to the zoo on Saturday. He said: “Daniel was in tears along with most of the people who were there. Women and children were screaming but it was all over in seconds.

“It’s in the lion’s nature – I have taught Daniel that lions are not fluffy animals. He was very upset.”

Alex Downing, the zoo’s marketing director, said: “We are very sad to report that our little barn owl ‘Ash’ sadly died at the weekend.

Unfortunately she got spooked during an experience and flew right out of the falconry arena and hit the window of another enclosure. She picked herself up and flew onto the roof of the meerkat enclosure where we hoped she’d settle but she was obviously dazed and as a result flew low across the lion enclosure.

“Although she landed on the side of the enclosure she very sadly lost her footing and fell in whereupon she was killed by one of the lions.

“Everyone involved is obviously extremely upset about such a combination of events but there is nothing that anyone could have done at the time to avoid such an awful outcome.

“In 25 years of falconry displays nothing like this has occurred as the birds do normally instinctively know that this isn’t a safe place to go.”

I wonder if any of these children has ever been around a dog or cat that has caught something.

These things happen.

But I think we have a bigger problem.

Nature shows in recent years have tended to sanitize predation.

When I was a child, the nature shows always showed big cats killing things.

That was like the big draw for most these programs.

But now, they tend to overly personalize the animals, which makes explaining predation somewhat more difficult.

I know that a lot of BBC nature films do show predatory sequences. I’ve been told that that new Frozen Planet series had lots of epic predation sequences in it.

Maybe films like these will prepare children for things like this.

Personally, if I had been at a zoon when I was a boy and saw a lion kill an owl, I would have been totally pumped!

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Here they are:


Well, here’s the story from The Northern Territory News:

There may be lions galore roaming the Top End. West Australian Mary Ford sent the NT News a photograph showing what appear to be big-cat paw prints.

She said the picture was taken at the entrance to Kakadu National Park in 2008.

But world-renowned experts say the prints show an animal without retractable claws, which means they probably belong to a big dog – or maybe a cheetah?

Three drivers said they had to stop when a lion crossed the Stuart Highway at Pinelands, on the outskirts of Darwin, on Sunday.

The NT News reported yesterday on speculation that the animal had escaped from a private collection in Humpty Doo

An impeccably informed source said: “Surely the good people of the Doo would hear a lion roar and ask, ‘What the hell is that? And then call the police.”

Readers share his scepticism.

Mad Bull of Alice Springs wrote on ntnews.com.au: “Maybe the roar heard was from Green voters because at the next election they will be silenced.”

Humour-challenged Brian of Thailand posted: “You have excelled this time with your crap.”

But Emma, who is intelligent enough to understand that something is humorous without having to be told “this is funny”, wrote:”Hahahahha. Love it.”

And commenter Dick Handcocks, who describes himself as “brother of Leon of The Doo”, said: “I’ve noticed a lot of fat hippos walking down Mitchell Street, especially when the US navy is in town.

“Good old Darwin is full of a variety of animals and plankton. Some breed out of control – their existence is supported by the taxpayer and Centrelink.”

Well.  Whatever may have been seen in the Northern Territory,  I can say definitively that these are not “lion tracks.”

Your mystery animal is some version of Canis lupus, either Canis lupus dingo or Canis lupus familiaris.

It’s a dog or a dingo.

Which may or may not be after your baby.

Just for comparison here is a dog track:

See how it’s oval shaped and the toes are arranged to a point?  See the claw marks?

That’s how you know you’re looking at a dog’s tracks.

This is an actual lion track that is juxtaposed with a human hand:

(Source for image)

Even if we ignore the size, the toes range outward. There are no claw marks with the tracks, because lions can retract their claws.


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I don’t think the fox is fully grown, but it’s almost the same proportions from lion to fox as it is from cat to chipmunk.

It’s a cat eat dog world out there.

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From The Training of Wild Animals by Frank Charles Bostock (1903):

An animal learns by association. Though it is a common belief, fear is not the reason for his obedience to the trainer’s commands. Habit and ignorance are what cause the animal to become an apt pupil in the hands of the trainer. The animal becomes accustomed to the same way of doing the same things at much the same time, and ignorance of his own power keeps him in this state of subjection.

This habit is developed in the animal by a laborious and patient process, and it requires an intimate knowledge of animal nature to perfect it. The easiest animal to train is one that is born in his native haunts and new to captivity. The reason is obvious. The one bred in captivity has nothing to fear from man, and knows his own strength and the fear he inspires. Accustomed from earliest infancy to the greatest care and coddling, he arrives one day at the stage of growth where he realizes the value of his own claws, for the use of them has shown him that human beings do not like to be scratched. Some attendant, who has, perhaps, been playing with him day by day, admiring his pretty, innocent-looking little face, soft furry body, and velvety paws while he is still a mere cub, drops him suddenly one day when he feels the deep prick of the claws hidden in those paws. The next time someone comes along, the cub may not be in the mood for handling; he remembers his past experience, that scratching means “let go,” and he puts this into practice. His liberty is promptly secured, and he lies in peace in his cage.

The next man who comes may get a deeper scratch, and he lets the cub alone even more severely, a fact that the cub notes and remembers the next time, for he is gradually acquiring a deeper disrespect for man and his puerile ways; he is beginning to know the value of the little knives he carries sheathed in those paws, and he is very soon autocratic in his independence. He accepts his food as tribute and his care as homage due, and regards man simply as another and much weaker animal.

Such an animal is difficult to train. The only method that may be pursued at all is severe letting alone for several years. All that time he holds himself more and more aloof. He is, in a way, congratulating himself on his success, and man in time becomes a shadowy being who periodically brings his food, and who, in some inexplicable way, keeps him in that oblong box for people to stare at.

He does not mind the people, nor does he mind the cage very much, for he has never known anything else; but deep in him—so deep that he barely realizes its existence— slumbers a desire for freedom and an unutterable longing for the blue sky and the free air. Man, in some way, is to blame for that intangible “something” that he wants, and scarcely knows that he wants; and man has shown him that he is afraid of his claws, and, therefore, the animal hates and despises man and all belonging to him.

The cub grows insolent in his haughtiness; then his undefined desire for freedom decreases somewhat, becomes more and more vague, and his existence is finally comprised in just two sensations: eating and sleeping. The disturbance of either is an insult, and any one who disturbs either an enemy. Man allows both to continue, and so the cub in his arrogance tolerates him.

The cub passes beyond his days of cubhood, and acquires almost the years and stature of a full-grown lion. He has few of the qualities of the newly captured animal. He does not fear man; he knows his own power. He regards man, as an inferior, with an attitude of disdain and silent hauteur….

With a lion which comes straight from Africa or Asia, the case is different. Lions are usually trained when between two and three years of age. A two-year-old of fine physique and restless nature has been brought straight from his native haunts. There he has been actually the monarch of the jungle. His life has been free and fearless.

Suddenly, in the midst of his regal existence, he falls into a hidden pit or is snared in the woods. His desperate struggles, his rage and gnashing of teeth, all the force of his tremendous strength, are ineffectual in breaking the bonds of his captivity.

After his first supreme efforts are over and he has thoroughly exhausted himself, he proves himself a very king of beasts in his haughty disdain. He apparently realizes his helplessness and submits to everything in sullen, dignified silence.

The lion comes to the trainer from the jungle, after having been subjected to abuse and gross indignities. From the time of his capture by natives who have neither feeling nor consideration for the poor animal, until he reaches his final quarters, his treatment, as a rule, is such as to terrify him and render him nervous in the extreme.

He has been kept in cramped quarters, cruelly joggled and crushed in a narrow box, while on his way to the coast from the interior, his bedding left unchanged, and the poor food with which he has been provided thrown carelessly into the refuse and offal which surround him. Clean and fastidious, as the lion always is about his food and person, he often refuses to eat, and this, added sometimes to seasickness, makes his suffering terrible.

The finest health and strength will not stand such a strain for long, and by the time the journey is ended the lion is disgusted with man and his ways. In many cases he arrives in Europe or America sick and weak, and appears only too ready to die and get rid of his troubles. The only passion he has in this State is a genuine hate for man, and this hate seems to be the only thing which arouses him at all.

It frequently happens that wild animals kill themselves in frenzies of fear during transportation. Everything in their surroundings is new and strange to them. They have lost their freedom and the fresh air; they are cramped and half stifled in close quarters, surrounded by dirt and unwholesomeness, and cannot even keep their bodies still for two seconds, owing to the perpetual motion which goes on, and which, perhaps, terrifies them more than anything else. Therefore, when a wild animal is first turned over to the trainer, he is practically mad with his experiences and terrors (pg. 120-126, pg 129-132).

In those days of “lion taming,” the trainers actually preferred to train young lions that were born in the wild– and full of negative experiences with people.

Part of the reason why a lion would be easier to train after having had so many reasons to fear and detest a person is that the primary methods for training a lion are using what we would call negative reinforcement and positive punishment.

For a young lion that had been trapped in this manner, the human appears to have almost mystical power over him. He has spent much of his life scaring other animals, but at the age of two, he most likely hasn’t been a major asset to his pride’s hunts.  He has arrived as scared adolescent, and the only thing he knows about people is that they have absolute power to move him as they desire. Nothing in his life has told him that he has any power over people.

And the fact that he may have arrived in ill health also likely makes him a bit timorous.

But the animal is eventually tamed in this manner:

The feeding of the animal is the first step in his training. The trainer takes him about six pounds of fresh beef or mutton, with a piece of bone, once a day, and fresh, clear water three times a day. No one but the trainer is permitted to go near him or to look at him. He must become acquainted with the trainer’s personality, and must be made to realize that his food and drink come from the trainer only. He must also be made clearly to understand that the trainer means him no harm, but does everything for his comfort.

The meat is usually put upon the end of a long iron fork, and passed to him through the bars. He has to come a little way forward to take the meat, and gradually, without thinking about it, he comes close to the trainer. At first the water-pan is tied to the edge of the cage, because in trying to draw the pan toward him the animal would upset it and make the cage wet and uncomfortable. There would also be the difficulty of getting it out again with a stick, which might arouse the animal’s anger.

When the lion and his trainer have once become acquainted, he is transferred to another cage; and here again, for two weeks, he is fed, watered, and taken care of by the same trainer, until the animal not only gets accustomed to him, but looks forward to his presence, because it invariably means something pleasant to himself. In about six weeks’ time a loose collar is slipped around the lion’s neck when he is asleep. Attached to this collar is a chain, long enough for the animal to move about, but just short enough to keep him from reaching the end of the cage.

The next step is for the trainer to put a chair inside the cage. Instantly the lion springs for it, but, being kept in check by the chain, finds he cannot reach it, and retires to a corner, growling sulkily at the intruder. After casting vindictive glances at it, with occasional growls, he becomes accustomed to, its presence and takes no further notice of it. Then the trainer, after opening the door of the cage once or twice and looking in, finally walks calmly in himself and sits on the chair. He is just out of reach of the lion, and when the animal has growled and resented it as he did the chair, he again subsides into indifference.

Then comes the time when the lion is released from the chain, when the trainer takes his life in his hands, and when he knows that the moment of extreme danger has arrived. No matter how quiet and docile the lion may have appeared to be when chained, he is likely to develop suddenly a ferocious savagery when released.

At this stage Captain Bonavita always carries two stout oak sticks, one in the right hand and one in the left. The one in the right he keeps for immediate use, and when once punished with this stick, the lion, not knowing the purpose of the stick in the left hand, comes to fear that also and backs away from it. If possible, the sticks are used to stroke the lion, if he will permit it; for the condition of a wild animal is one of receptivity—he is willing to welcome anything that will give him pleasure. But it is rarely, indeed, at this stage of the proceedings that he will allow this.

In the first place, the lion is generally a little frightened or nervous himself, and alarm begets wrath. It is feline nature to dissemble that wrath until the moment of action. Leo does not growl or lash his tail. It is not the growling lion that is to be feared most, nor does the lashing tail, as so many suppose, indicate danger. Not anger, but good humor, comes from such indications. It is when the tail stands out straight and rigid that the trainer begins to think of retreat.

When the tail becomes stiff in this manner, it is generally a pretty sure indication that the animal is going to spring. When the trainer sees that tail become like an iron bar, he tries to slip out at the door; sometimes he knows he will never have the opportunity. Before the lion springs he glances aside carelessly, growling quietly, and the next instant, with open mouth and all four paws distended, he is sailing through the air, straight for the throat of the man, his tense body rigid with passion, and his five hundred pounds of sinew and muscle ready to descend on the intruder.

The man who will not have foreseen that terrific onslaught, holding himself in readiness for it, has no business with wild animals, and will, in all probability, never again attempt any dealings with them, because he will never have the chance. The agility which is one of the requisite qualities for a trainer must come into play, and upon it depends his life.

It is here that the chair, which plays no small part in an animal’s education, comes into use again. That chair was not brought into the cage merely for comfort. It is the best defense possible against the lion’s spring. Swift and apparently unpremeditated as the spring has been, the man has seen the tenseness of the muscles that preceded it, and before the animal has reached him, the stout legs of the chair are bristling between them.

Here is another problem for the lion. This unknown thing has suddenly assumed an unexpected and possibly a deadly significance. Snarling, he drops on his haunches and claws at the barrier; perhaps he has plumped into it and has felt the blows from its dull prongs. Then out from behind it springs a stick—the same stick of his pleasant memories, but turned to base uses now, for it flicks him smartly on the tip of his nose, just where a lion keeps all his most sensitive feelings.

Again it lands, and the chances are ten to one that two blows on that tender spot are enough. Howling with rage and discomfiture, the lion ceases to claw the chair and retires to his corner, very crestfallen and extremely puzzled and bewildered. By the time he has had leisure to consider the strange performance, the trainer is out of the cage, leaving the chair behind him.

Now the lion may do any one or all of several things, according to the depth of his emotions. He may glower and sulk in his corner; he may rant and tear about his cage, giving vent to his outraged feelings in loud roars; he may go for the chair and dismember it (not without scars to his own hide, probably); or he may settle down to think matters over calmly, possibly coming to the conclusion that it is unwise to attack any strange thing before finding out whether it can hurt in return.

Generally, after this chair incident, when the lion has got the worst of it, he calms down fairly soon, and on the reappearance of his trainer some time afterward has evidently forgotten the unpleasantness of it all, and remembers only that it is the trainer who brings him all he wants. In some cases he greets him with a gentle rubbing against the bars of his cage and a soft purr, for he is only a big cat, after all. The meat is taken with a slightly subdued air, he allows himself to be stroked and patted,—outside the bars,—and so another great step in his education has been taken and accomplished successfully.

The next stage in the training of a lion is for the trainer to enter the cage again with the chair and stick. No longer militant, but somewhat timid, the animal keeps in his corner, furtively watching the trainer. Little by little, the man edges the chair over until he is within reach; then he begins to rub the lion with his stick. Little by little he decreases the distance still more, until, finally, he has his hand on the lion’s shoulder and is patting him gently.

This is another great step in advance. The lion has learned to endure the touch of the human hand; although he murmurs sulkily, he likes it, for few animals are indifferent to petting. Day by day the trainer familiarizes the lion with his presence and touch; rubbing his back, stroking his shoulders, raising his paws,—a somewhat risky and ticklish trial,— and in the course of about two weeks after first entering the cage, if the animal be of fairly good temper, all alarm and overt enmity have been eradicated, so accustomed has the animal become to the presence of this one man (pg 133-144).

So the lion is tamed through something like the Stockholm Syndrome. They are essentially brainwashed into doing the bidding of people.

Such an animal would have been easier to work with– given the methods they used– than one born in captivity that has learned to treat humans as a social partner.

But no one in their right mind would go out and capture lions for the circus these days. Not only are lion numbers declining in the wild, but the very notion of catching wild animals to perform at a circuses is morally repugnant in the modern era.

But in the days of the lion tamers, they used the healthy populations of wild lions to provide the circuses with their performance animals.

It really is that counterintuitive that the lions that were used in circuses of that day were actually “tamed,” and the term “lion tamer” actually meant exactly as it implies.

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I don’t know if this is a leopard/lion hybrid or a cross between a lion and a leopard/jaguar hybrid (some of which are fertile.)

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During the Pleistocene, a very large cat once roamed from Alaska to Mexico.

Whatever it was exactly is still being debated.

The current taxonomy of this species is that it is a subspecies of the lion, Pathera leo. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA from extinct Eurasian cave lions, American lions, and modern lions strongly suggests that these animals were all part of one rather genetically diverse species that, as as happened with so many other carnivore species, lost this genetic diversity at the end of the Pleistocene. The Eurasian cave lion and American lions were sister taxon, and it has been established that the Eurasian cave lion was very closely related to the modern species.

However, this same study found that Eurasian cave lions did not interbreed with modern lions, even though their ranges overlapped in the Near East and Southeastern Europe, and Eurasian lions did not interbreed with American lions where their ranges overlapped in Beringia. So they may have represented three distinct species of lion, but one must be careful assuming species status through MtDNA studies. Mitochondrial DNA tells us the inheritance through the matriline. Granted, MtDNA has its own genome and is more resistant to mutation, which makes it a useful tool in determining relationship, it is only one part of the genome.

To make things even more confusing, some authorities have suggested that the American lion was a tiger–hence the stripes in this depiction.

A recent morphological study that compared the skulls of American lions with other pantherine cats found that the American lion’s mandibluar morphology was more similar to jaguar than to the lion. The study suggests that the American lion was actually its own species, which was closely related to the jaguar.

However, the genetic evidence suggests that the American lion was a form of lion. Maybe it was its own distinct species of lion. Or maybe it was nothing more than a subspecies of a once quite diverse species that we call Panthera leo.

Panthera leo atrox or Panthrea atrox it seems clear that this animal was a lion, not a jaguar or jaguar relative. The reason for having a jaguar mandible probably result for living in the North American Pleistocene environment, which was populated by an even greater diversity of megafauna than exists on the Serengeti today. Jaguars have very powerful jaws, which they also evolved to deal with this type of prey. (Jaguars lived in North America long before they lived in South America). It would make sense that the lion of the Americas would have evolved similar adaptations to hunt similar prey.

One should be as leery of morphological studies as MtDNA studies. Morphological studies could never tell you that pugs and borzoi belong to the same species. However, genetic evidence very clearly would show this relationship.

More study is needed to determine where the American lion and the Eurasian cave lion fit in the taxonomy of the Pantherine cats. My guess is that they are actually subspecies of lion, and nuclear DNA studies, should any be able to be performed, will find more evidence of a gene flow across these types. But if not, they were all likely interfertile, and whether we consider them subspecies or separate species might always be up for debate.

We don’t have modern American lions or cave lions around to do any experimentation. We do know that male cave lions lacked manes.There are definite male lions depicted at Chauvet Cave in France that clearly have no manes. Because American lions evolved from the ancestors of cave lions, they probably didn’t have them either. There is evidence that Eurasian cave lions lived in prides, but there is also evidence that American lions did not. So there may have been behavioral reasons why these lion populations did not interbreed, even if they could.

Many questions have been raised in the research on the exact taxonomies of these two extinct big cats. One can only hope that a nuclear DNA study might be possible.]

Of course, those are old lion remains, and DNA is hard to extract. Complete sequences are ephemeral phantoms when it comes to ancient specimens.

Their exact position is simply nebulous– as it is with so many different species that went extinct in the eons of prehistory.

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Tigers are smarter than lions. Encephalization quotients say so!


One should never use encephalization quotients as substitutes for intelligence tests. Frogs have bigger brains in relation to their body sizes than dogs do. Are frogs smarter than dogs? Shrews have really big brains in proportion to their body sizes–much more so than humans. In some shrew species, 10 percent of their body weight is their brain. Are you going to tell me that shrews are more intelligent than people?

What Salmoni says about lions could be something more related to the peculiarities of lion behavior. Lions are social cats, and they might be responding to the approval of their human trainers more than a tiger would. If a tiger decides to kill, it may not be able to be stopped with corrections. It doesn’t care as much what people or other cats think of it. Male lions also attack for a different reason that tigers do. If a male lion is kept with lionesses, he become very protective of them. It seems to me more likely tigers attack almost entirely out of predatory response.

And intelligence has nothing to do with whether a species is more easily domesticated than another. We have domesticated all sorts of different animals with different types of intelligence. Pigs and dogs are fairly intelligent animals. The fact that male lions get so aggressive when in the presence of females is probably why they will never be domesticated.  It is the pre-existing natural behavior of the species– not intelligence– that determines whether a species can be domesticated.

I laughed a bit when the tame lion was set on the bull. A tame lion has no practice in hunting. How on earth would it know how to kill a bull? Further, it’s a male lion. Male lions are not meant for hunting, unless the pride is going after African buffalo, which is a huge, aggressive animal that can give a hunting party made up of mostly lionesses a run for their money. A big male lion or two can provide the brawn for bringing down this fellest of African horned herbivores.

I don’t know who started this meme on Youtube of which animal will kill which animal in a fight or which animal is the most intelligent. It’s really funny. It is like teenage boys are yearning ofr an animal death match. Their inchoate desires to see bloodsport are transferred into these puerile exploits that often use misunderstandings, pseudo-science, and half-baked anecdotal evidence to back up their claims.

I have no idea which animal is more intelligent. I am not sure that this question is all that relevant to understanding why tigers and lions behave as they do. I doubt that lions are very good at stalking wolves and brown bears in Russian forests as Amur tigers do. I doubt that tigers are very good at cooperative hunting of any sort.

Intelligence in animals is alway controversial– and always nebulous. Intelligence in our own species is similarly difficult to quantify or qualify.  We don’t have a good understanding of those characteristics in our own species, so what makes us think we can divine them between two species of big cat that happened to be separated by millions of years of evolution and that evolved to live very different lives in the wild?

Tigers are intelligent to be tigers. Lions are intelligent to be lions. I think that is all we can say, if we are to say anything from a scientific perspective.

I should also correct a few things in this video:

In general, social predators are more intelligent than solitary ones.  This was the finding of a recent study that compared the evolution of brain sizes across different species through their ancestral forms. Dogs have evolved larger brains from their ancestors than cats have. That is because dogs are social.

And I don’t know how anyone can say that lions live in less complex environments than tigers do. Lions were once quite widespread through Africa, Asia, and even parts of Europe. They are adapted to complex environments. And even with that understanding, how can someone seriously make the claim that life on the African savannas is not complex?  Parts of the Serengeti are known for their startling biodiversity, and lions are part and parcel of it.

There are so many things wrong with these sorts of videos. I don’t know why I watch them.

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Born Free

I can’t believe this is online:


It’s a shame they took down Christian the Lion.

It was a real life documentary.



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