Next year, we’re going to celebrate 50 years since Christian the hugging lion was born. He became worldwide famous after his story was told in a documentary and then when a video reached the Internet. When people heard his story, they realized how powerful the bond between man and animals is. Let’s see how Christian first became a sensation on the streets of London.
You won’t believe how much his life changes after he becomes an adult… We’re in tears, and we promise they’re all of happiness!
20. Born in 1969
Christian was born in Ilfracombe Zoo (Devon), in August 1969. He and his sister were rejected by their mother, so they had to be raised by the zookeepers. But after a few months, they were sold to Harrod’s, a department store in London.
19. A Baby Lion In The Window
Two Australians came to London to work at an antique pine furniture shop – the Sophistocat. They saw the lion cub in the window of the department store and they immediately bought it. They went home…
18. The Name of the ‘Beast’
The men named the lion in an irony as Christians were fed to lions. And this is how Christian got to live with two men in a flat in Chelsea. The basement of their shop was Christian’s home. He also went on car rides, check him out at #13!
17. Iconic Photos
You don’t see photos of London in the 70s with people walking their lions, but looking at John Rendall and Ace Bourke – the Australians, and Christian the lion, it’s like looking at two men walking their giant pet!
16. A Baby Kitten
Christian was a very gentle cat, but he was only a baby. He was going to get bigger and London wasn’t the perfect environment for him. One day, two actors from the movie ‘Born Free’, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, saw Christian…
15. Visiting Sophistocat Antique Shop
When the actors saw the lion and talked about him with Ace and John, they also mentioned rehabilitation. That’s when the Australians called George Adamson to help them set Christian free. What happened next is amazing!
14. We Can’t Keep Him…
Both Ace and John knew that keeping a lion in London was too much, especially when he was fully grown. So, they began their plans of sending Christian to Africa. Then they called the Kenyan Wildlife Services. Here’s what they did next.
13. Traveling Was A Bit Difficult
It took the men a lot of months to finish the paperwork to allow them to travel with Christian to Africa. They also quit their jobs and moved into a caravan 30 miles outside London, to the countryside. Christian looks so happy in the following photo!
12. Getting Ready For the Wild
Christian was finally in the countryside, free to move around and to see how nature really was. But he was a scaredy cat! He was even afraid of a scarecrow! Not to mention that he was so friendly!
11. Checking Out the New Crib
Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers were around too. They built a large enclosure for Christian and he started feeling more at ease outside, investigating the space. Ace and John were enjoying their last moments with their kitten. He wil soon be released into the wild…
10. Lion Instincts
Christian showed his lion instincts in the upcoming months, but he loved his best friends and was very dependant on them, said Ace in an interview: ‘he also loved us, as we were the closest things to him’. In Kenya, George Adamson was ready to welcome Christian…
9. Rehabilitating Lions
George was specialized in rehabilitation of lions and he already had a small pride that was waiting for Christian. The famous trio flew to Africa and then traveled over 200 miles to get to the Kora Nature Reserve.
8. A Shocking Environment
Christian was shocked to see that the place was very different. But he was with Ace and John and the first night spent in the Kenyan bush was in the same tent as Ace and John, on a bed and with his head on a pillow!
7. Uuuh, what is That?
When Christian first encountered hippos and crocodiles, he was relaxed and a little bit interested. But that wasn’t good news… In the wild, Christian had to survive. And he also had to be accepted by the wild lions in the pride.
6. Time to Learn
The first year was tough for Christian. He had to learn how to live in the new environment. His instincts were intact. All the expenses for Christian’s journey, rehabilitation, and the Kora camp would soon be funded…
5. A Documentary – ‘Christian the Lion’
Derek Cattani filmed a documentary on Christian’s life in Africa and Bill Travers also produced documentaries to help to fund all the costs for Christian and for the camp. You can still find the documentary ‘Christian the Lion’ at the Born Free Foundation.
4. Kora, 1971
One year after Christian was living in Kenya, Ace and John went to pay him a visit. They have been warned that the visit could be a waste of time. However, they wanted to see how Christian was doing… And they filmed the reunion!
3. Christian’s Territory
Anxiously, John and Ace entered Christian’s territory and then George appeared at 100m away with Christian. Then, after the lion stared at the men, he started walking towards them. You won’t believe what he did…
2. A Great Big Hug
Christian ran and jumped into the arms of his best friends, recognizing them and being excited to see them again. And then, one more year later, John and Ace came again to see Christian. He recognized them again and spent some time with the men.
1. A Successful Rehabilitation
After three years in the wild, Christian was an independent lion, eager to join back his pride. He wasn’t the funny ‘London Lion’ anymore. Christian was an African lion now. Then, he was last seen in 1973, when George saw Christian heading towards Meru National Park, probably looking to form his own pride.