Sabre Toothed Tigers…


You know, I believe we all have primal instincts that we often suppress.

In Silk Threads, I wrote about the little boy who walked backwards away from the leopard in a cage at a wildlife orphanage. The same child also stopped, frozen while he looked up, up, up at the stuffed elephant in the museum. At Hwange National Park, he sat stock-still (he was only two years old) as a whole herd of real live elephants walked around the open land-rover. As adults we slowly breed this instinctive behaviour out of ourselves. Instead of remaining absolutely still when elephants move past our car, we reach for the camera!
When I was about fifteen or so, a friend of ours was asked to raise a lion cub (for that same wildlife orphanage).It was believed at the time, that if a lion was taught to hunt it would be easier to return it to the wild.

I spent most of the Easter holidays on the ranch with this cub. We did disgusting things like bong rabbits on the head and encourage the lion to finish off the job. We dragged dead meat along behind the land cruiser, play/fought over carcases. We tried to teach it to hunt.

I was ‘mum’ to that lion. I not only scolded it, but also preened it. I spent hours on the veranda brushing it (trying to imitate a lioness’ tongue with an old hairbrush) I would sit with my legs hanging over the edge of the veranda and it would lie with its head on my lap.

It lived in the house along with the dogs, and during the holiday I spent there, it was about the size of say, a boxer, but obviously a different shape and growing fast. I would guess by the end of the holidays, it was closer to the size of an Alsatian.
I returned to school for three months and had totally forgotten about the lion when I went back to the ranch in August.
I took my normal seat pushing my head back, thankful to be where I wanted to be – out in the quiet bush. I was looking forward to riding for miles on my own, free as a bird for day upon uncluttered day.

I opened my eyes when I heard a strange noise, a sort of rumble, but accompanied by the click click of paws on the polished floor. The lion strolled into the lounge from the veranda and looked directly at me with his yellow, yellow eyes. No cub this. He had the beginnings of a ruff around his neck and massive lion sized paws.
Well you know the saying, ‘my stomach went to water.’ Well, it did. All the saliva from my mouth went to my stomach, I think.
The lion walked over and put his head on my lap, just as he had done only three short months ago. His head was heavy and his yellow eyes looked up at me, unblinking.

I didn’t know what to do. Pat him, slip out from under that huge head and run away, or just close my eyes and hope I was dreaming. My hand suspended above his head, I was about to start patting him with a ‘here now kitty kitty,’ and he began to purr.
Yes, I know people say lions can’t purr, but he made a sort of rumbly, grumbly bad breathing sound. Too difficult to describe.

I think that is when I breathed out and my friends couldn’t hold it together any longer. They had tears pouring down their faces. They had set me up, knew I had forgotten the lion. They also knew it would remember me and come up, lean against me or put its head on my lap.
Maybe that’s why I don’t have heart problems, high blood pressure, indigestion or any of those kinds of ailments. I gave them all a test rev. that day. My heart stopped and started several times. Any excess stomach acid I may have accumulated got dissolved that day. Any deposits in my blood vessels got blown way, way away.
I think if we ran away from Sabre Toothed tigers occasionally, like we had to ‘in the caves’ it would sort out all our problems. And, any of us who couldn’t run away fast enough would also have our problems sorted out…one time

Once again, a big thanks to those of you who bought my book. And for those of you who havnt yet read it, you can buy a copy here:


4 responses »

  1. Wow, what a great story. Classic African tale. Well, you say the adrenaline cleaned up your heart/blood veins when you saw the lion again….I would have cleaned up my digestive instead! What happened to the lion??

    • I don’t know what happened to the lion, I think I heard it went back to Chipangali. I don’t think it was a very successful program – getting lions back into the wild. Apparently they have very strict social patterns. We did teach it to hunt and it was a wonderful learning experience for me. But I am not joking when I say I got a fright, I nearly died of fright – you can have no idea how big and scary an even half grown lion is.

  2. I think I really would have died! Or perhaps I would not have forgotten the lion … Great story. Perhaps the program was inspired by Born Free, but I think the Adamsons probably had more resources, and of course Elsa was a female. Your lion sounds so lovely! Have you ever read the Butterfly Lion?

    • No I haven’t read the Butterfly Lion. So much of my reading has been what is available in the second hand book shops. Only once I got my kindle did the world of ‘new books’ open! Of course, I have read Born Free!
      It was a Chipangali program, but I heard it didn’t work and the lion lived out his life there. Now, I understand they have injectable contraceptives for the lions there so they don’t have progeny.

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