Thursday, November 20, 2008

European Lion

European LionEuropean Lion is an extinct lion subspecies that used to reside in southern parts of Europe up until the first century. Believed to be a descendant of the huge Cave Lion of prehistoric times, the European Lion was the last lion subspecies to be wiped out of Europe. It is classified in scientific terms as Panthera Leo Europaea or Panthera Leo Tartarica.

Very little is understood about the appearance, behavior and lifestyle of European Lions. They are thought to have preyed upon bison, cattle, deer and other herbivores found in those times in Europe. Their geographic range included areas that are part of modern-day France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and the Balkans. Owing to their distribution, these lions are generally agreed upon as the link between North African Barbary Lions in the west and the Asiatic Lions in the east.

As with the other lion subspecies of those times, the ascendancy of Roman Empire was linked to the downfall of European Lions. Since these big cats were native to Europe, they were the first to be inducted into Roman coliseums and put into fights against willing and unwilling opponents. One of the forms of capital punishment in Roman times was to place the condemned, usually naked and unarmed, in an arena with lions, leopards or tigers. Then there were men who voluntarily fought the beasts for money or glory. The animals often inflicted fatal wounds on multiple people before succumbing themselves. There is an account of a lion having singly killed two hundred human beings.

The barbaric rituals of Romans, excessive hunting and competition with expanding feral dog colonies are the main factors thought to be responsible for the eventual extinction of European Lions. By the beginning of the first century, lions had already disappeared from Western Europe. As the century drew to a close, the great cats vanished from Eastern Europe as well - making the official year of the extinction of these noble animals 100 AD. The Romans didn't stop by the way. After the extinction of European Lions, they started importing lions from other parts of the world. By the time of their eventual downfall, the Romans had inflicted irreversible damage to the populations of Barbary, Cape and Asiatic Lions as well, alongside many other top predators.


Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Well, I didn't know this about the Romans. Very interesting. Their entertainment and our loss. Have a great day. :)

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

The Romans imported all sorts of strange and wonderful animal species to use in bizarre battles to the death. Bears against lions or lions against perhaps an elephant. They had a lot to answer for the loss of so many species including the Lions.

BeadedTail said...

I learned something new today. I didn't know about the European Lion or the way the Romans were. Interesting information.

MaoMao said...

Wow, we Ballicai have learned a lot today. Yur bloggie is so fascinating and informative. And it's so sad that the European Lion is no longer with us. :(

Kittyhugs and purrs from MaoMao.

Mickey said...

Too bad the Roman empire did not fall much sooner!!!! Stupid humans!!
Purrs Mickey

Jade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jade said...

I know Romans used big cats in the arenas, but the grand rate at which they went through lions surprised me. Good post (as usual)! :)

Anonymous said...

Damn Romans. I'm fairly certain, however, that they had nothing to with the extinction of the Cape Lion which resided in South Africa.

Anonymous said...

cool artcale hu i learned something new today

Anonymous said...

i did not know what european lions aet but now i do

Anonymous said...

I have read some studies that suggest that the asiatic lion, was extremely similar to the european lion. Some people have suggested that essentially they were the same species with a large spread of habitat. When wolves bears lynx and such have recovered across europe, then perhaps there could be space for other predators but not until. I think that the barbary lion (also thought to be very similar genetically to the european lion) should be the first animal to be reintroduced- either from zoo specemins or other subspecies similar, as the barbary lion filled an ecosystem hole which in much of its range has not been filled by another animal.

glennh3365 said...

On behalf of the deer community, I thank the Roman emperors for this contribution to a more civilized natural environment. Yay, Caligula!

Anonymous said...

First of all the roman empire was made up of many different ethnicities and localities which each had their own culture. All of these peoples (celts, greeks, iberians etc) probably hunted lions since before the city of Rome was ever founded! blaming the Romans is an uneducated accusation.

Lucky Cat said...

I believe the romans aren't the only ones to blame.
But they were the society that exhausted them
out of existence. So D:<. I mean seriously
if you're going to execute someone, hit them in the
head with something hard or drown them. '='
And instead of sitting and watching people get eaten they could have been furthering their knowledge of the world. Or building more column

automnsea said...

So I agree with other anonymous, doubting Romans could have caused extinction of Cape Lion, which lived in South Africa. Neverless I wonder about the real appareance and behaviour of the European lions: from some pictures they don't seem to have the long hair under belly that both barbary lions and asiatic lions had. Barbary lions were solitary when asiatic lions live in smaller groups than african ones.

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