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People and Their Pet Lions from the Past That Provide a Wild Twist to History

Living into the past, it’s not the domesticated cats or loyal dogs that catch our eye, but the majestic lions, known for their prowess in the wild, lounging with humans in domestic settings. It sounds like something from a fantastical tale, yet there was an era, particularly noticeable in the early to mid-20th century, when the elite and adventurous didn’t just flirt with danger; they brought it into their homes.

These vintage photographs document an assortment of individuals, from high society figures and Hollywood’s golden-era celebrities to audacious members of the animal-loving public, who embraced the king of the jungle not as a distant, feared wild animal but as a personal pet.

The question that naturally springs to mind is, “Why lions?” To decipher this, we need to delve into the human psyche and the societal disposition of the times. Lions, powerful and regal, have long been symbols of strength and bravery. Ownership of such an exotic creature wasn’t merely a status symbol; it was a statement, an embodiment of possessing a wild, untamable force.

The individuals who ventured into such extraordinary relationships were often seeking to channel the lion’s attributes, drawing a sense of power, courage, and prestige from their association with the beast. Moreover, these exotic pets were conversation starters, attention-grabbers, and for public figures, a surefire way to remain in the limelight.

#1 Lieut. Col. Roscoe Turner feeds his lion cub mascot at The Sherman Hotel, Chicago, 1930.

#2 Tommy the lion cub joins a second-grade class at Alta Brown School, Kansas, 1951.

#3 Ruby Wood takes her 300-pound lion for a daily roadster ride in Venice, California, 1930s.

#4 Triss Sharp, a motorcyclist, with his lion cub mascot at Crystal Palace, London, 1930.

#5 San Diego’s lion cub poses for the camera, 1935.

#6 ‘Tornado’ Smith and wife enjoy tea with their pet lion and lamb in Southend, 1936.

#7 Actress Gloria Youngblood poses with her lion, 1937.

#8 Pierre Clostermann pets Bai, a lioness from Sudan, in Bougival, France, 1950.

#9 Pvt. Floyd Humeston’s pet lion Fearless Fagan wears his hat, 1951.

#10 Sidney Franklin Jr. chauffeurs his new star, Hollywood lion Fearless Fagan, 1951.

#11 Pet lion Blondie gives a piggyback ride to a neighbor girl in Texas, 1955.

#12 Blondie enjoys her first motorboat ride on Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, 1955.

#13 Mrs. Verna Koontz plays with her pet mountain lion Kimbo in her living room, 1956.

#14 Norman Payne frolics with his pet lion at home, 1958.

#15 Crowd watches a woman pet a lion cub in Nevada, 1959.

#16 Guy Michael and wife stroll with their pet lion and dog, 1959.

#17 Two boys walk their pet lion in Zug, Switzerland, 1959.

#18 Howard Sautter drives downtown with his pet lion in the backseat, 1964.

#19 Yvonne Clarke shares her bed with her pet lion Leonie, 1972.

#20 Sheba the lion cub rings a bell on a pub’s bar counter in Denbighshire, 1972.

#21 Tom Gillespie’s lion cub Leo sits by a petrol pump, 1975.

#22 Noel Marshall types as his pet lion Neil watches over him, Sherman Oaks, 1971.

#23 Tippi Hedren leans against her pet lion Neil while reading a newspaper, Sherman Oaks, 1971.

#24 Noel Marshall at his San Fernando Valley animal compound, 1982.

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Written by Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is a freelance writer and photographer with a passion for exploring the world. Her writing is both informative and engaging, offering unique perspectives on travel, food, and lifestyle.

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