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Barbary Lions

Barbary Lions

Skulls of extinct Barbary Lions
Curator Richard Sabin examines lion skulls
DNA comparison of Barbary Lions and Moroccan Royal Lions
The Tower of London
Moroccan Royal Lions
Skull of a Barbary Lion
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What were lions doing at the Tower of London?

In recent years, excavation of the moat surrounding the Tower of London revealed two skulls. The remains of torture victims perhaps? Out of favor noblemen who lost their heads?

No. These are the skulls of two Barbary lions once indigenous to West Africa but now extinct. Carbon dating places them in about the 14th Century AD.

How did these lions end up at the Tower of London?

The secret will be revealed in Museum Secrets: Inside The Natural History Museum.

Living Symbol of Power

Until they were hunted to extinction, Barbary lions were highly prized for their unique features: a physique and temperament that set them apart from other more familiar African lions. Ancient Romans employed Barbary lions to fight gladiators in the Colosseum. Centuries later, kings and queens of England bred them as a living symbol of power. They were royal pets, kept in cages at the Tower of London, along with many other exotic animals.

We invite you to join curator Sally Dixon Smith as she visits the Tower of London to reveal how a prison for traitors became a zoo in our Web Exclusive Video: Royal Menagerie.

Extinct But Not Forgotten

We can't show you real live Barbary lions because they're extinct.  So we invite you to meet their distant cousins: a pair of lions named Rock and Roar, currently living in a zoo in England. Curator Richard Sabin explains how these lions may help us understand the evolutionary journey of the Barbary lion in our Web Exclusive Video: Rock and Roar.

Over To You

If you enjoyed our video walkabout at the Tower of London, perhaps you'd like to see the real thing.  Before you go, we suggest you check out the tours and exhibitions on offer at the official web page of the Tower of London.


zwazi • #20 • 2018-03-25 10:30:29
really handsome lion skull... but I\'m quite sure \nthe upper jaw incisors ( the ones next to the lower canines) \nfell out and the person who glued them back in put the left \none in the right socket and vice versa.

Dallas • #24 • 2018-03-25 10:30:29
Viewed the Museum Secrets episode dated 2010 about these lions & found it very interesting. Near the show\'s end they were testing the DNA from the Tower\'s Moat skulls to see how well the living lions of today match up. Watched the show\'s end cre