Barbary Lion – It Was Very Good

Barbary Lion
Male Barbary Lion, 1893. Photographed by Alfred Edward Pease

Barbary Lion (Panthera leo leo)

The Barbary Lion, also known as the Atlas lion or Nubian lion, was a lion subspecies formerly native to North Africa. The lions inhabited the range countries of the Atlas Mountains including the Barbary Coast. In Algeria, they lived in the forest-clad hills and mountains between Ouarsenis in the west, the Pic de Taza in the east, and the plains of the Chelif River in the north. There were also many lions among the forests and wooded hills of the Constantine Province eastwards into Tunisia and south into the Aurès Mountains.

Barbary Lions lions had the most luxuriant and extensive manes amongst lions.  The Barbary lion was considered the largest lion. Museum specimens of the species are described as having very dark and long-haired manes that extended over the shoulder and to the belly. Head-to-tail length of stuffed males varies from seven to nine feet, and females around 8 ft. The weight was documented as being as heavy as 600 to 660 lbs in males.

Barbary Lion
Sultan, a Barbary Lion, of the New York Zoo, circa 1897

The Barbary Lion is extinct in the wild. Some Zoos and wildlife preserves believe they have Barbary Lions in their care, though the minimal genetic diversity of the alleged remaining animals ensures that the subspecies is effectively extinct.

Hunting, habitat loss, and desertification in Northern Africa all contributed to the extinction of the species. The Romans used Barbary Lions in the Colosseum to battle with gladiators. By the early 1800s, it was already being reported that they were extinct from coastal North Africa.  The last known report of Barbary Lions in Tunisia dates to the 1890s. The last of the subspecies was shot in the Moroccan part of the Atlas Mountains in 1942. There were a few sightings in Morocco and Algeria in the 1950s. The last remaining wild population of the lion may have survived into the early 1960s in the remotest areas.

More Information

Author: Jonathon

Would rather be out swimming, running, or camping. Works in state government. Spent a youth reading genre-fiction; today, he is making up for it by reading large quantities of non-fiction literature. The fact that truth, in every way, is more fascinating than fiction still tickles him.

One thought on “Barbary Lion – It Was Very Good”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: