Sample: Barbary Lions, as seen in Game of Thrones

Lions appear often in Ancient Greek and Roman art. This may seem strange, as the capitals of these two empires were both located in Europe, with most of their major cities in northern Africa— nowhere near southern Africa, where we now exclusively find free-roaming lions. But did you know that as of very recently, there were free-roaming lions in northern Africa, which are the lions we see in Greek and Roman art? They were called Barbary lions, and they were greatly admired. 

When we think of lions today, we think of flowing, golden manes. But Barbary lions had darker manes, giving them quite a distinct and exotic look from the south African lions. Despite people’s admiration for them (they are found depicted in Greek and Roman murals, were chosen to battle the gladiators at the Roman Colosseum, and once lived at the Tower of London, along with other royal north African families), it was people’s obsession with them that eventually caused their extinction.

It is commonly thought that the last Barbary lion was killed by a French colonial hunter in 1922. However, some people think that small populations of Barbary lions may have survived, hidden from humans in Morocco and Algeria. Two conservationists were able to find reliable accounts of Barbary lion-sightings up to as late as 1956. These conservationists believe that the Barbary lion actually saw its extinction in 1958, during the French-Algerian war, when the forests near this last sighting were destroyed by warfare.

Whatever the date of the last free-roaming Barbary lion’s death, what is for certain is that now, they live only in zoos. So will we ever be able to take a safari in Casablanca, Morocco, and see the old Barbary lions roaming freely? Possibly, although it will take a lot of work. The first problem would be the need to make sure a conservation area was populated with enough prey animals for the Barbary lions to eat, such as gazelles and Barbary sheep, which are already too close to extinction. With enough effort, it could happen. We owe it to them, since it was humans who took them out of the wild.

Author: howiabandoned

Freelance writer and editor at your service. Click on "portfolio" on the main menu to see publications I've written and edited for. Also the whole site is full of articles I've written or edited. Email me at for the fastest response, and especially if you'd like to hire me for a longer term project. Twitter:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: