So you thought Hobbes was the only domesticated predatory feline in popular culture? Though wonderful as he is, Hobbes has a twin persona of being a stuffed toy to Calvin’s parents and an animated intelligent tiger to Calvin. Let’s cross the Atlantic ocean and zero in on King’s Road, London of 1969. There was a lion who travelled by Bentley, ate in fine London restaurants, played soccer in a church backyard and spent his days lounging in a furniture shop. The incredible yet true story of the pet lion ‘Christian’, his playful antics in the London of Beatles era, his bonding with the humans to his eventual release into the wild – is as moving as it is incredible.
Fact, they say, is stranger than fiction!
A lion in the living room
Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall, two Australians who in 1969 were living in a hip section of London had come across a lion cub in a cage at the Harrods department store in the “exotic animals” section! The friends decided to bring the cub home and soon the three bonded like kindred souls. Christian was more like a large cat rather than the lion, but then after a year, he had grown to be of epic proportions with regard to his weight and size to be kept in an apartment. The friends decided to take Christian to his natural habitat in Kenya and with the help of renowned wildlife conservationist George Adamson.
In 1972, the friends revisited Kenya to meet their old friend. The reunion’s edited video has become a cult classic on YouTube and a worldwide sensation, more than 30 years after the event. The quondam footage of a grownup lion gleefully bosoming two young men like a lovelorn canine has made myriad eyes misty.
A news story aptly put it,
What is it about the old, grainy images that have attracted millions of clicks around the globe? Is it simply that a lion, whimsically named Christian, remembered the two men who raised it and then released it into the wild? But it may be something more: the indelible image of a creature that could kill a man in seconds behaving like a pussycat with two men it obviously loves, smack in the middle of the African bush.