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The Black Lion
Melanism: an increased amount of black or nearly black pigmentation of an individual or kind of organism
Black Lions Don't Exist
Let me first make it clear, there has never been a document case of an actual black lion. There has never been any plausible account or evidence to suggest that a black lion has ever existed and in my opinion no such lions ever has existed.
However it's existence is not scientifically implausible as melanistic examples exist of eleven species of felines, including many other large cats such as jaguars. So while black lions are not known to be impossible, there is no genuine photograph of one.
Black Lion Pictures
The development of photo-manipulation software like Photoshop has led to a lot of black lion pictures being produced for artistic reasons, but then circulated as real.
- This majestic black lion (shown right) is lent plausibility by a grizzled muzzled. However comparison with the original image demonstrates that it was produced by photo-manipulation.
- Another example from the same year can be traced back to artist PAulie on DeviantArt where a white lion was transformed into a black one.
Black Lion "Sightings"
Some pictures and videos are accompanied by eyewitness accounts. But alternative explanation are available for what the witnesses actually saw.
- Reports of black lions roaming a South African township were attributed to the animals being seen in silhouette.
- A wandering creature dubbed "the Dartmoor Beast" was speculatively identified as a black lion. but turned out to be a large black dog.
Lions that are Dark or have Black Patches
There seems to be potential for melanism in lions, but it has only every been partially expressed in any individual animal. For example Ethiopian lions are sometimes referred to as black lion because they have partly black manes. Guggisberg (1961) thought that the existence of black maned lions might suggest that the species was tending towards melanism overall, but there is no evidence that this is really the case.
- In 1975 a lion was born at the Glasgow zoo that had a large patch of black fur. This male lion called Ranger had a large black patch on his foreleg and chest--suggesting that melanism may people possible but was expressed here via mosiacism, where one animal has body parts with different genotypes. Ranger was apparently infertile. You can see pictures of Ranger as a cub and adult here.
- Naturalist Sir Henry Layard described a dark brown, but not black lion in Iran. This lion was probably from a now extinct lion species that was darker in color than modern lions.
- Black lions do appear in heraldry such as on the coat of arms for Flanders, Belguim.
- Dreaming of a black lion suggests that your big plans are in peril and you need to be careful.
- The black lion appears in the Bible (depending on the translation used) as a symbol of strength.
As also explained in the following video, all evidence for black lions can easily be explained away. So I think that they exist only in our imaginations, at least so far. However there is evidence that if just the right mutation occurs it is possible that a true black lion may yet be born. Eberhart (2002) lists the black lion as a possible cryptid (undiscovered animal) but one that has not produced a single credible sighting or report.
Do black lions really exist
- Eberhart, G. M. (2002). Mysterious creatures: a guide to cryptozoology. Abc-clio.
- Mazak, V. (1964). Note on the lion’s mane. Z. Saeugetierkd, 29, 124-127.