The Barbary lion is one of the most magnificent mammals that have ever walked the Earth. This is one of history’s most famous beasts, known as the Berber lion, the North African lion, the Egyptian lion, and the Atlas lion. Believed to be the link between the African and Asian lion, the Barbary lion has been featured throughout known history. It is the largest and most ferocious of the lion species, with its typical dark mane.
Barbary lion males have a wonderfully thick, dark mane that goes down to their elbows and under their bellies, making them one of the most frightening and classically beautiful of all apex predators. It is believed these manes developed due to the cooler temperatures in the Atlas Mountains, lower on average than other regions of North Africa. They also have a robust, muscular bodies. In 1942, the last known Barbary lion was killed in Morocco. The only remaining Barbary lions can now be found in zoos, where they are part of a global breeding program to ensure their survival.
Barbary lions are recorded throughout history. The Romans used Barbary lions to battle gladiators in the Colosseum. Thousands of these cats were killed during Caesar’s reign. These lions were also kept in the Tower of London’s menagerie and given as presents to Moroccan and Ethiopian royal families. Barbary lions are believed to be descended directly from these ‘royal lions.’Generally speaking, big cats kept in captivity rarely achieve the sizes and weights of their wild counterparts.
Accounts from hunters in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries suggest the Barbary lion measured up to 9.8 feet (3 m) long and weighed over 661 lbs (300 kg) but the accuracy of this information is questionable. Males in zoological collections vary from 7.5 – 9.2 feet (2.3 to 2.8 meters) long and females up to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) long.
Where did the Barbary lions live?
The historic Barbary range was in North Africa’s Atlas Mountains, covering over 1,600 miles through Morocco’s Rif Mountains, Algeria’s Ksour and Amour range, and Tunisia’s Aures Mountains. They also roamed throughout the Barbary Coast, into Libya, and into Egypt, earning it the name “Egyptian Lion.”Unfortunately, they are no longer found in the wild. The Barbary lions lived in pride, even when there were not many of them left, especially in the eastern Maghreb.
They were extinct in Tunisia by 1890, having been eliminated from the Mediterranean coast by the 1830s when human settlements evolved. They were extinct in Algeria by 1893, and no one saw one between 1902 and 1910. In 1942, a Barbary lion was shot in a mountain pass in Tizi n’Tichka, Morocco’s High Atlas. Several small populations were presumably present in Morocco and western Algeria throughout the 1940s, but they are thought to have disappeared during a military conflict in Algeria between 1958 and 1962 when their mountain forest habitats along the coast were destroyed.
The last known sighting in Algeria was in 1956 in Sétif, in the far northwest of the country, however, small remnant populations may have survived into the 1960s.In 1937, workmen excavating the moat at the Tower of London found two amazingly well-preserved lion skulls. It was determined they were the skulls of pure-bred Barbary lions from the Tower’s Royal Menagerie. Carbon dating aged the oldest lion to between 1280 and 1385 and the other to between 1420 and 1480, the oldest lions found in the UK since the extinction of wild cave lions at the end of the last ice age.
Are there any Barbary lions still alive?
Barbary lions first appeared 2.6 million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. Despite this, they are now extinct in the wild. There are about 80-100 Barbary zoos across Europe and Morocco. The Moroccan King had a collection of Moroccan Atlas Barbary lions of which some or most lions today in Zoos around the world descends from its bloodline, but unfortunately, not all of these awesome amazing lions of the King survived as some were given as gifts or to Zoos and sanctuaries around the world where they’re found and gave generations of cubs in North America, Asia and elsewhere around the Earth and the world, or even were given to some royal families and kings as is the cases of Eastern Africa.
The Barbary lion still exists but in a mixed bloodline that makes it hard to find a pure true individual of the Barbary lions, where several programs were established trying to facilitate its bloodline from other Asiatic lions of Asia or other African Lions of other sub-species, its extinction in the wild is a sad reality and its mixed bloodline is too a sad reality that gives us a clear vision of the mass need to protect the majestic lion: the symbol of strength and royalty of our human civilizations!