The Emotive Story of Christian, the Lion.

A Creature who learned to love man and not regret it.

Christian with friends
Christian with friends
Saying hello after a long absence.
Saying hello after a long absence.

This is such a moving story

Hot, disturbing news!  Virginia McKenna said on British Television today (Jan 31, 2011) that there are only 2,000 lions left in the wild.  She said "Lions are replacing the nearly extinct tiger in providing body-parts to the Chinese to use for their (quack) medicines."  "Lions are besieged on every side, " Virginia said.  ""We shall loose them altogether if we don't act now!"

Now, please read my story of one lucky lion.

I just saw the most moving program on British Channel 30 (Free view) television. I expect many if not most people will have heard of the story of Christian, the lion, but there may be a few that have not and it's so rare to find one of these true life exposes that ends well and happily (except for the goodbyes) that I thought I would write a small article about it.

Christian was a lion cub acquired by Harrods Emporium in London from a failed Ilfracombe zoo - goodness knows why, except you could be crazy back then without all the nannies and the ’elf and safety wallahs coming out of the woodwork. Anyway, the rambunctious cub was soon found to be too much for the store to swallow. They finally decided to get rid of him when he got out at night and destroyed the carpet department. (What fun!).

He was purchased for 250 guineas (a sort of posh pound and one shilling back then) by two Australian furniture designers, John Rendall and Anthony "Ace" Bourke, who moved Christian into the basement of their furniture store in the West end of London (more fierce loins than lions around there!). A friendly vicar nervously allowed them to exercise the growing cat in his graveyard. (Evidently, one of the Aussies said it was a case of the lion being thrown to the Christians!). They also took him to the seaside which he seemed to appreciate.

Like lions will, Christian was getting bigger and heavier by the minute. One thing that impressed me from start-to-finish of this charming documentary is that Christian never - ever- allowed himself to deliberately hurt anyone, even when he became a magnificent, fully-grown male lion. He was playful and loving and anyone that says animals don't express their feelings should see the look of sheer adoration on this creature's eyes as he looked at John and Ace.

When he was a year old and weighed 90 kilos they realized something had to be done and they could not keep him for ever among people. Neither would consider zoos or circuses, in fact, they wouldn't even consider animal parks (in their infancy then anyway).

One day, purely by serendipity, their furniture shops was visited by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, the stars of the movie "Born Free," (about the lioness, Elsa, who was re-introduced back to the wild). They suggested the Aussies contact George Adamson, who was trying to start his own pride of lions in Kenya, at the Kora Reserve. They did this, found Adamson to be willing and began a 3-month discourse with the Kenyan government to get permission to import Christian. The authorities were reluctant at first because they said they had "enough wild lions of their own," and they were against the idea of dealing with "tame" lions which they saw as rightly dangerous.

Christian, John and Ace made the trip together, with the lion in the hold, and arrived safely. After some time, Christian was carefully introduced to "Boy," Adamson's huge lion used in filming and his books. Boy made Christian show his obsequiousness and accept his dominance - which he did by rolling on his back, and the two gradually became inseparable. Why don’t idiots in bars do that instead of shoving broken glasses in each other’s faces? Lions have more sense, of course.

John and Ace were getting regular bulletins from Adamson when very sad news arrived. Boy had been in a serious fight with a pride of wild lions and was seriously injured - in fact, he nearly died and could not be allowed back in the wild with Christian. Boy's personality so changed he became savage and attacked on of Adamson's assistants, causing Adamson to reluctantly shoot the lion. Unfortunately, neither Boy nor the assistant survived their wounds.

John and Ace came back to visit Christian in 1971, wondering if he would still remember them, not a little apprehensive when they saw how he had grown. Christian approached slowly and then they called his name and he rushed at Ace and bounded into his arms! It was a moving moments, especially as the lion had his own small family of two lionesses and a cub! When these other lionesses saw Christian had accepted John and Ace, they all became affectionate towards them.

The Aussies returned again in two years although Adamson had said he had not seen the pride in many months. Perhaps by some telepathy unknown to us, Christian was there with his small pride the day before they arrived!

He was then a fully grown male lion with all the detachment and dignity they possess. But again, he was friendly and loving towards them. One of the Aussies said he stayed up all night, drinking and smoking and playing with the boys, but left early the next morning "on lion business," after he had had a good nap to combat the excesses of the night before!

This was the last time anyone saw Christian. Perhaps imbued with a more developed intelligence as regards priorities than our own, this incredible creature saw that his life and transaction with humans was at end. But he seemed to bear no ill-will and we all hope he had a long and rewarding life with his pride. He was now able to take care of them and fight off any opposition. He probably lived for another 10 years, or a bit more, until he was too ill to hunt and would have succumbed to the cruel law of the jungle; probably about 1985 or so. Of course, Adamson may know something he is not telling, but I prefer to believe that, for once, this kind of story had the happy ending that was broadcast.

This story has just received a lot of attention recently after 40 years, I don't quite know why, but you can see the marvellous video of the reunions on and there are a couple of books and a film either just out, or planned.

I thought it was a lovely story and when you follow up on this simple introduction, so will you,

Footnote George Adamson was murdered in 1989 when going to the rescue of a tourist. Rendall still lives in the UK and is running Adamson's trust. Ace Bourke is back in Australia and involved in many things, including Aboriginal affairs. There are some wonderful photos of one and all - especially Christian - on Google images and youtube has many short clips of the events.

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Comments 18 comments

BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

This is so sweet, what a lovely and moving story. No, I had not heard about Christian but have now. Loved this story.

diogenes 6 years ago

Glad you enjoyed it, Bobbi Bob

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you, Diogenes, for telling this lovely story with a good ending. Animals definitely have more sense then humans. I thoroughly enjoyed your writing and reading this story.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks, HH. I lost a few tears on this one, but more of joy than sadness....Bob

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Lions are magnificent! I had a friend who raised a lion cub and although that story ended badly, he loved that lion more than life. A little girl tried to play with the lion and was "mauled". She lived, but they put the lion to sleep over it. Never mind the girl should have been better supervised.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

How idiotic. The mauling was probably the lion playing. Your friend should have been allowed to find it a more secure home. But, as I said, these days they put a 'Peke to sleep if it growls at you. Friggin 'elf and safety in the UK. Bunch of bloody pussies that's why they're giving the country to the bloody rag-heads. Bob

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Yes, my friend cried for many days after his lion was put to sleep. This guy has had one of the hardest lives of anyone I know and was one of the bravest and truest of friends. I hope that he is still alive, but I have not heard from him for over 20 years. We were teenagers together and were wild and crazy, but Brian always was my champion and someone I could count on. He was shot 4 times with a .45 Colt Commander at point blank range once for trying to stop a robbery in progress. He actually lived and learned to walk again in spite of the doctors saying that he would never do that. But of course, the bullets did a lot of damage and I don't know if he is still around. I do know that if I needed him and had his number, he would come if I called, no matter what stood in the way.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

The best die young and often have unlucky lives. Society is often scared of people like your friend because they are free of all the rules. I hope he is still around; not enough good ones left...Bob

medor profile image

medor 6 years ago from Michigan, USA

to me this is the rest of the rock diogens for giving just a little more insite into this story... love following your hubs.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks for very kind comment and interest. This story has brought many a tear for loves lost, the impermanance of life and also of joy for this creature's life and that of several wonderful men and women who fought to help Christian find his true destiny...Bob

cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

heartwarming story, but you'll never see me in the neighborhood of a wild predator bigger than me, no matter how friendly his reputation. i always say my housecat would eat me if i were small enough, though he purrs up a storm when we cuddle. glad for all that christian is in the wild, where they should have allowed austinstar's friend's lion to go.

diogenes 6 years ago

I agree. Of course, the two blokes in my article had little choice really but to help this poor, lost little cub. If you read my "creature features" about snakes and arachnids and the rest, you will see I always advise leaving these creatures in the wild and not trying to "own" them. I don't even believe in petting excepted, of course. I am sure your cat loves you and wouldn't think of eating you under any circumstances! Bob

D Coffman 6 years ago

I loved this true story.. I was looking for a follow-up of Christian.. I logged onto your site..

I was sad to hear that George Adamson was also murdered, as was his wife.. That's upsetting those that had caring hearts as they did.

It makes Africa sound very brutal and savage, I'm not talking about the four legged animals either! :[

Seems many of the people who care about the wildlife of Africa, working to protect them, end up some point...

I was glad to hear Christian grew into a powerful African Lion with his pride and I know he was happy living free...sure he lived a Kingly Life. :)

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Yes. Shame that Christian is the exception rather than the rule. Lions should not be in captivity at all. The shame is that without zoos and animal parks, many species would be nearer total extinction than they area. Christian's was a lovely story, even if its end was undocumented, at least he had the years we know about. Thanks for comment. Bob

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for the information about Christian. I am very familiar with the story of Elsa and the sad fates of Joy and George Adamson, but I have never heard of Christian. It was wonderful that he was released into the wild yet recognized his former human companions after long periods of separation. We sadly underestimate the abilities of some animals.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

I agree we do indeed underestimate the intelligence and understanding of us and our motives by the so-called "lower life-forms." Our complicated language and expression is replaced in some of them by their highly developed instinct, much of which we have lost. And they communicate much more among their own species than we give them credit for. Thanks for comment...Bob

Ayo 5 years ago

Am a copywriter, was just thinking of something distruptive, yet meaningful to wow my colleaques, so i decided to start the race with a scary headline: AS FRIENDLY AS A LION:This story just tinted some sides of my brain and am already distrupted. Thanks

diogenese 5 years ago

The word is "disrupted" in my dictionary, Mr Copywriter...Bob

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