Barbary Lions In The News

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 26th, 2009

But they are suppose to be extinct.

The Thomas County Sheriff’s office is investigating an incident involving the apparent mauling of an Oakley man by a lion.
The incident occurred Saturday [February 21, 2009], at a compound north of the Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 83 interchange.
Lion owner Jeff Harsh said a man who had been staying at the Free Breakfast Inn motel apparently made his way into an outer perimeter lion cage late Saturday evening.
Harsh, who was preparing to feed the animals, found the man with his arm over the top of a gate on the inner cage. A Barbary lion had grabbed the man’s right arm, according to Thomas County Sheriff Rod Taylor.
Harsh then drove the man, identified as Bradley Buchanan, to Citizens Medical Center in Colby. Buchanan was then transferred to a hospital in Denver for additional surgery.
Taylor said it appears Buchanan might have been under the influence at the time the incident happened, and said the photos taken of his arm show deep wounds, the lion’s canines apparently reaching the bone.
There has been a long battle about Harsh’s ownership of exotic animals, and Taylor said a hearing in Thomas County District Court on charges relating to the animals were dismissed pending the transfer of ownership of the three Barbary lions to the Detroit Zoo, in part through efforts made by PETA, an animal-rights group that has examined the lions.
Taylor said Harsh has agreed to transfer the lions to the zoo, which is supposed to travel to Oakley within 60 to 90 days to examine the lions and test them to ensure they don’t have any type of disease that could jeopardize animals at the Detroit facility.
If the tests are negative, the animals would then be loaded up and taken to Detroit.
Taylor said no charges are expected to be filed in connection with the Saturday incident, providing Harsh follows through on his promise to transfer ownership of the lions.
That doesn’t, however, resolve what to do with two tigers at the facility.
“I hope we find a home for the other two,” Taylor said.

Source: “Lion bites Oakley man; injuries severe enough to send him to Denver hospital,” The Hays Daily News By Mike Corn, Feb. 25, 2009.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

19 Responses to “Barbary Lions In The News”

  1. Pasketti responds:

    According to Wikipedia:
    The Barbary Lion, Atlas lion or Nubian lion (Panthera leo leo) is a subspecies of lion that has become extinct in the wild. There are around 40 in captivity in Europe, with fewer than a hundred in zoos around the world.
    The Barbary lion formerly ranged in North Africa from Morocco to Egypt. The last known Barbary lion in the wild was shot in the Atlas Mountains in 1922. The Barbary lion was believed to be extinct in captivity as well. However, possible Barbary lion individuals or descendants have been located in zoos and circus populations within the last three decades.

    It then goes on to talk about captive-bred lions in zoos that have Barbary Lion ancestry, and attempts to breed it back.

  2. kittenz responds:

    Barbary lions are thought to be extinct in the wild, but they were once the most common subspecies of lion in zoos (due to their close proximity to Europe, I imagine). There are still some Barbary lions in zoos and sanctuaries. Most of them are not “purebred”, having been crossed indiscriminately over the years with other subspecies of lion. But there is an ongoing project to locate more Barbary lions and hopefully have enough captive bred to reintroduce the subspecies into the wild at some point.

    Maybe there is hope for the Barbary lion.

  3. DWA responds:

    I have to laugh.

    Guy puts his hand in the cage and gets, OMG, BITTEN. So bad he had to go to the hospital for that booboo! awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

    Then I read this:

    The Barbary Lion, Atlas lion or Nubian lion (Panthera leo leo) is a subspecies of lion that has become extinct in the wild. There are around 40 in captivity in Europe, with fewer than a hundred in zoos around the world.
    The Barbary lion formerly ranged in North Africa from Morocco to Egypt. The last known Barbary lion in the wild was shot in the Atlas Mountains in 1922.

    As Croc might say: THAT’S a bite.

    Kittenz: there sure is hope for them, as long as they keep recognizing problems and possibilities like this one did!

  4. Artist responds:

    Want Barbary Lion photos?

  5. jayman responds:

    Barbary lion or just plain lion, it’s yet another tragedy involving dangerous wild animals in private hands.
    I’m coming to the conclusion this problem needs to be addressed at a national level, maybe with all such privately owned “exotics” being confiscated – private zoos, shelters, etc. staffed with appropriately trained persons exempted.

  6. MattBille responds:

    A journalist without related scientific background may well toss in the word Barbary without knowing the meaning.

    Just last week I saw a clip on a cable show about animal attacks showing a German lion trainer being chomped on by his charge when the cat got upset about too many people crowding around. The lion was striking: a big male with a luxuriant black mane that went most of the way down the cat’s underside. It sure looked like it had Barbary blood.

  7. BunniesLair responds:

    This particular website talks about how a Dr. Nobuyuki Yamaguchi is trying to preserve the Barbury genetics, and has supposedly had some success.

  8. sschaper responds:

    Jayman, the federal government has no such delegated authority.

    If we were to apply your suggested principle fairly, we’d forbid taming wolves, forest cats, auroxen, wild equids, wild boars, wild sheep, wild goats and so on – and we ‘d still be hunter-gatherers. Taming animals is part of what it is to be human.

  9. Alligator responds:

    Kittenz that is good news to know there are efforts to save the sub-species.

    I should know but don’t – I wonder if the Barbary Lion was the sub-species that was found in Southern Europe and Asia Minor up through Roman times?

  10. jayman responds:

    Sschaper, the creatures you mention are domesticated, not tame – there’s an important difference. Probably animals like big cats and apes can’t be domesticated due to their nature. And in any case, that was in the past, in a very different world, and it’s a “done deal”, so to speak.
    While the federal government may have no such specific designated authority, it certainly does intervene in many issues involving public safety.

  11. Dj Plasmic Nebula responds:

    i already knew they were not extinct lol.

  12. coelacanth1938 responds:

    “But they are suppose to be extinct.”

    Maybe they were just unlucky?

  13. kittenz responds:


    Barbary lions are almost certainly the primary subspecies of lion that was used in Roman arenas. Some spectacles “used” (read: killed) hundreds in a single event. No wonder they went extinct in the wild!

  14. JohnnyMargera responds:

    Hmmmm, since I live right near the Detroit Zoo, I’ll get pictures of the Lions once they come in.

    Interesting bit of news.

  15. kittenz responds:


    I use to live in Ypsi, & went to the Detroit Zoo a lot. Another zoo in Michigan that I liked very much is the John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids. I went there many times when I was a child, living in western Michigan.

    I have not been back to Detroit for several years. One time I drove all the way from Pike County, KY to Detroit, just to go to the zoo… stayed for feeding time in the lion house, then turned around and drove home 🙂 . That was when they still had indoor viewing for the big cat facility, with big old-fashioned barred cages on either side of a main aisle. You could not hear yourself think in there during feeding time! I suppose it was rather unsafe & that’s why they have taken that area off-exhibit. But it was really something to be enclosed in that big room, with roars echoing off the walls and big cats leaping around their cages.

    True Barbary lions should not have much problem adjusting to the climate of Detroit. I have a friend who is from Morocco who tells me that it can get very cold in the Atlas Mountains. Lions are very adaptable and cold-climate zoos don’t have much difficulty housing lions.

  16. DWA responds:


    Lions, like wolves, can indeed live in a lot of places. The central Alaskan “refugium” (ice-free area) during the Pleistocene had lions closely corresponding to the existing species (although bigger).

    I was at the National Zoo in Washington on Presidents Day. The lion (I actually think it might be an Atlas lion; at least I know the Zoo once had them) was outside, alternating bouts of roaring with lounging about in the sun. It was not a warm day.

    The big cats in general don’t seem to have problems with cold. The Sumatran tiger was out that day, too. The cheetahs seem particularly active after it snows.

  17. eireman responds:

    ” they were once the most common subspecies of lion in zoos (due to their close proximity to Europe, I imagine)”

    Once I saw a picture of them, it really struck me that these are very much like the many 19th century (and earlier) depictions of lions. Hope they find homes.

    I’ll be in Morocco in April, I’ll have to keep my eye out for any still hanging about. Perhaps they are like the jaguars in Arizona and still hanging around.

  18. kittenz responds:


    I hope that’s the case. Northern Africa is a big place. Maybe there are still some lions living there.

  19. Tabbercat8 responds:

    I’m sure the lions would adapt, we have a female lion in a Wildlife Sanctuary 2 1/2 hours north of Toronto, Ontario. She enjoys the snow and rolling snowballs apparently. Haven’t seen her do it but plan on visiting this summer. She came to our area when she was under a year and has been here for about 5 or six if not more. Animals are adaptable, she has a warm shelter full of straw if it gets too cold.

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