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Christian the Lion: The True Tale of a London Lion

Jun 08, 2010

There once was a furniture shop on King’s Road in London, England. It was filled with most of the things you’d expect a normal furniture shop to carry: tables, desks, chairs and TV sets. But if you happened to look through the front window on a Sunday, you may have seen something rather unusual: a lion. And it wasn’t stuffed!

(All images in the story are courtesy of Derek Cattani / A Lion Called Christian Copyright 1971, 2009.)


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


Lion’s Tale


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


Christian the Lion became a furniture store pet when John Rendall and Ace Bourke bought him from Harrods Department Store in London in 1969. They’d visited the store’s “exotic animal” department with a friend, just for fun, when they saw the little lion cub in a small cage. They looked at each other and knew something had to be done.


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


They bought Christian for 250 guineas and took him back to their shop (which happened to be named the Sophistocat Furniture Shop). There, he was giving his own living space and a lion-sized large litter box, which he always used, in the basement. For exercise, Christian was allowed to run around in a nearby cemetery; every day he and his master went there to kick a soccer ball around.

Raising a Lion


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


John and Ace spent a lot of time taking care of Christian – raising a lion cub is a lot of work! He also ate a lot – four big meals a day. He also had a great sense of humor. He liked to sit in the shop window, still as a statue, and just when the people looking in thought he must be a stuffed lion, he’d slowly turn his head and totally freak them out!


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


Everyone loved Christian and he became a local celebrity. He was very well behaved and never hurt a soul. But he was very big and very strong (he was a real lion, after all) and as he grew (Christian weighed 35 pounds as a cub and, just one year later, he was a whopping 185 pounds!) it was clear that he couldn’t stay with his two young owners in their small London shop forever.


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


Christian Goes Home

What would become of Christian was eventually decided by a complete coincidence. Two actors who had starred in a movie about Africa wandered into the shop to buy a pine desk. They met Christian and told John and Ace that their film told the true story about a wildlife conservationist named George Adamson, who rehabilitated lions into the wild. They were sure that George would be able to help Christian.


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


John and Ace contacted George, who warned them that, even though he was willing to help, rehabilitating Christian, who had been born in a zoo in Britain, raised in London and never been to Africa in his life, may not work. Still, everyone was willing to take a chance on giving Christian the life he deserved, in the wilds of Africa with other lions.


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


At 12 months old, Christian was flown to Kenya in a specially made crate. John and Ace went with him. George met them and immediately took them to the Kora Reserve, where there was no human habitation. After they’d set up camp, George explained some of the challenges he thought they faced in rehabilitating Christian into the wilds of Africa. The main problem, he said, was that wild lions live and hunt in prides, and it’s VERY hard for a new male lion to break into an existing pride. If Christian could not be accepted into an existing pride, he’d become a solitary “nomad” lion, and his chances of survival would be VERY slim.


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


To improve Christian’s chances, George planned to introduce him to the wild with another captive lion he was rehabilitating at the time named Boy. Boy had actually been one of the lions to star in the movie about George’s life (the film is called Born Free).

When Christian and Boy were introduced to each other, it was the first time Christian had seen another lion since he’d been a tiny baby at the zoo. He didn’t know how “normal” lions act when they meet each other, so he walked right up to Boy to say hello – Boy didn’t like that one bit! For the first few days, the two lions were separated by a safety fence that they could see but not make any physical contact through, and this is how they learned to like each other without risking them hurting each other.

At this point, John and Ace had to go back home to London. That meant leaving their beloved friend Christian behind. It was a sad goodbye, but George had lots of work to do to make sure Christian would be able to survive on his own in the wild. He kept working with the two lions every day, until they eventually established that Boy was the dominant one, meaning he was in charge. Once Christian learned that he had to respect Boy, the two were absolutely inseparable. That’s when George added a third lion – a female cub named Katiana – to the growing pride. Every day the three lions would go for a walk in the bush. Boy always went first, then Katiana and Christian was always at the rear. George walked behind them with a rifle in case he had to scare any other animals off. After all, these three tame lions still had to learn how to survive in the wild.


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


Wild Kingdom

There were all sorts of threats to the lions in the wild. But the biggest danger was the wild lions that stalked the reserve, which Boy was slowly fighting to establish as his pride’s territory. But then a tragedy occurred and Boy was killed. Everyone told George his “experiment” was over, but the wildlife expert refused to listen. Finally, in 1974, George wrote a letter to John and Ace in England, telling them that Christian’s new pride was established and their former pet was now a lion living in the wilds of Africa. He had learned to protect his territory and defend his little family (Katarina had given birth to her first litter of cubs) on his own. The pride was seen less and less by the humans at the reserve camp.

Hearing the good news, John and Ace decided to go back to Africa one last time, to see Christian in his new home and to say a final goodbye. George warned them that they were probably wasting their time. He hadn’t seen Christian in nine months (though he knew he wasn’t dead, as he would have heard reports of dead lion from the staff that regularly patrolled the reserve), and he felt that the London lion would likely never return as he was busy taking care of his new family.

But John and Ace decided to take the chance anyway. The made the long trip to the reserve and, when they finally arrived, George met them with incredible news: Christian had arrived the night before with his lionesses and his cubs. He was waiting for his human friends on his favorite rock just outside the camp.

What happened next is too incredible for words. Check out the video of Christian the lion’s reunion with his former human family:



A year later, Ace and John returned to Africa once more and were reunited with Christian again:



This video is the last record anyone has of Christian. After he’d come to see John and Ace one last time, no one ever saw him again.


Christian the LionCourtesy of Derek Cattani


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tbhskylas posted in Debating:
That i not the point. do you have a sister or brother. If you don't imagine you do. Then someone came up and cut there spinal cord. How would you feel? And if the mother doesn't want the child then she can give it up. And if they cant afford the cost of a new life(Which does make sense by the way)Then they can get help, go back to school or get a job. This isn't like they have no choice. They do.
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"tbhskylas" wrote: "Wishyouweremehehe" wrote: "AlphaT" wrote: "Wishyouweremehehe" wrote: women should have a right to choose an abortion up until the term in its pregnancy when it can actually sense itself which is about 6 months old, and guess what you cant actually abort a baby after 6 months in clinics so its not a big deal 1. What does it mean to sense oneself?  2. Why is self awareness the difference between life and death?  ​Since the baby isn't fully developed at that point it can not feel, learn, think, remember etc. so aborting it up until that point is completely harmless cause the baby has yet to know anything its basically just a wad of cells like a tumor till about 6 months in term. Aborting a baby in those months is literally like throwing away an egg and a ##### that happened to grow, and for some people that's a better option, in the United States thousands of people go bankrupt from medical bills including bills for child birth (which is ridiculous I don't think anyone should be charged for giving birth, thank god for canada's medical system) and that can put the mother out on the street homeless with a baby. Having a baby isn't a good option for everyone, think about girls in school or college who get ##### or whose partner convinces them not to use protection and then run out on them? The responsibility of caring for that child is forced upon the mother who typically doesn't have the funds or means to raise a child. And don't say "if they didnt want a baby they should have used protection or birth control, cause some time their partners are sleezeballs or they both forget or they are #####, and birth control is expensive and messes with you bodies hormones. And what about Mothers who just don't want that stress on their body? Cause birth is painful and exhausting and it can physically change a person. And what of the girls who it would possibly die when giving birth ? I strongly believe that no one should be able to force a person to something with their own body that they don't want to, now I don't exactly recommend abortion but I believe a woman would know when its a good time or not for her to have a baby. If a man can walk out of a pregnancy so can a woman. You just dont get it do you? Even though it cant feel or see that thing is still living. It is alive. It hiccups it burps twins play with each other. Its still there so that is exactly like killing a week year old baby. You are killing a life. That is not ok in ANYONES BOOK. or at least it shouldn't be. Technically by your standards we should all be in prison and ashamed of ourselves cause we stepped on an ant or ladybug, or because someone got treated for cancer because hey tumors are living they are LIFE.
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Ame-Alpha posted in Debating:
Omigosh Yes @Jordan08 i love what you post!  :)
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Honestly both suck, but i would definitely choose Hilary cause she stands for gun control and women's rights. Now i know alot of you Americans want your guns "for your protection" but is it really safe if just everyone can have one? Canadas gun laws are alot more strict and guess what our klast mass shooting was like 7 years ago and hardly as many people died in comparison as most of the shootings in the states. I already made my point about abortion up above, so yes i definitely think she's a better choice for the states even though shes not perfect but what politician is? Literally every politician is shady and has something they are hiding, and the FBI looked into her em**ls and found nothing, her deleting em*#ls means nothing what so ever, even if she deleted them they would still be on a server which the FBI would be able access yet they came up with nothing, yet there is viable proof that Donald Trump is a liar, racist, cheater, sexist, tax evader(he makes over a million each year and he avoids his taxes that means you either have to pay more taxes or your roads don't get fixed, your schools don't get funding, medical research gets less funding, military gets less and so on), he buys out from china, and he sides with Putin. This man is gonna end up with a world war on his hands if he wins because I bet he will sell out to the Russians in a heart beat because he is greedy.
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What if they were r*ped? They would have to have a baby. They should have a right to remove the fetus. Men should not choose what women do, and women should have the right to be able to control her baby. We do give the birth after all!!
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