A Lion In Europe

Now I want you to play a word association game. When I say lion write down all the words you think of. How many of those words are related to Africa, or the savanna?

Both the Hungarians and Bulgarians (and possibly other -arians) feel that they have a strong connection with lions. The Greeks and Russians do too. All through Russia and Eastern Europe there are statues of lions.

In Bulgaria the lion appears on their coat of arms. In a museum there is a lion door knocker from the end of the 4th century. In cave is a painting of a ‘cave lion’. Although, the cave lion may have been a type of panther.

This got me wondering, were there lions in Europe and how long ago were they here. Was it recent enough to justify the obsession or are all the lions borrowed from the Africans? Did all encounters occur in the distant collective memory?

This is what I found.

Between 10000 - 5500 BC the lion was still present in Northern Spain.

Between 5500 - 3000 BC the lion was found in Hungary and in Ukraine.

Lions were present in Transcaucasia until the 10th Century (I can’t find out if this is 10th century BC or 10th century AD).

We wiped the European Lion out. Much like we did the Asiatic lion and the American lion. Australia and Antarctica never got a lion but I understand why (Lions aren't that good at swimming). What I want to know is, if almost every continent had a lion why didn’t Africa have a tiger?

A tiger! In Africa? It must have escaped from a zoo!

The reason why, it is suggested, is that the ancestor of the Tiger left Africa about 2 million years ago it and made it’s way over to South East Asia. There it had a good time and improved itself (the Tiger is bigger than the Lion). It then started making its way back to Africa. It got as far as Turkey before losing out to humanity. About 90% of the Tiger's natural range has been lost to humans.

The Tiger never made it back to Africa until we shipped it there in a zoo. China has shipped a number of endangered South-China tiger cubs to South Africa where they learn the skills needed to survive in the wild. Then they head back to South East Asia to enjoy what’s left of the wild.

when: Saturday, June 21, 2014