Friday, November 10, 2017

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Barbary Lion

The Barbary lion was considered one of the biggest lion subspecies. They had dark, long-haired manes that extended over the shoulder and downwards to the belly. It is said that they developed the colors and size of their manes due to ambient temperatures, their nutrition, and their level of testosterone. It is also possible that they developed such long manes due to the temperature in the Atlas Mountains, which is much lower than other regions in Africa.


The Barbary lion once roamed the deserts of Morocco, Algeria,Maghreb and other regions around Atlas Mountains.The Atlas Mountains had cold temperatures when compared to other parts of the African region, especially in the winter. The Barbary lions lived in prides, even when there were not many of them left, especially in the eastern Maghreb.


The Romans greatly admired Barbary lions and used them in the Colosseum to battle with gladiators.The Romans killed thousands of lions in their games, the Arab empire that followed squeezed the remaining animals into smaller territories.

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. By the middle of the 19th century, their numbers had been greatly diminished. The cedar forests of Chelia and neighbouring mountains harboured lions until about 1884.The last survivors in Tunisia were extirpated by 1890.

The last known wild Barbary lion was shot in the Moroccan part of the Atlas Mountains in 1942. However, several people reported sightings of the Barbary lions in the 1950's in Morocco and Algeria although it was never proven. Some people say that small populations may have even survived until the early 1960's, but it is not known for sure. These lions used to be offered to royal families of Morocco and Ethiopia and were known as the "royal" lions. It is said that some of these "royal" lions survived until the late 1960's, until a respiratory disease just about wiped them all out.

There have been numerous sighting over the past three decades, but none of them have been genetically proven. Several zoos around the world claim to have Barbary lions in their collections. In all likelihood most if not all of these big cats are not real Barbary lions but rather hybrids with lions from sub-Saharan Africa.


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