Buffalo Lion

Maneless big Cat of East Africa.

Etymology: After its preference for large prey such as buffalo.

Variant names: River lion; Tsavolion. Physical description: Male lion without a mane. Length, 9 feet 8 inches, including tail. Weight, around 400 pounds.

Behavior: Solitary. Adept at attacking large prey.

Distribution: Kenya.

Significant sightings: The famous pair of maneless, man-eating lions of Tsavo, Kenya, were responsible for killing 140 railway workers during a nine-month period in 1898. Now on exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago, these

The maneless, man-eating lions that terrorized Tsavo, Kenya, in 1898. (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago)

large males were shot by Chief Engineer John Henry Patterson in December.

In 1998, two maneless male lions were photographed in Tsavo National Park after bringing down a buffalo cow. Possible explanations:

(1) Manelessness among male Lions (Pan-thera leo) could be due to hormonal problems or genetic defects. The condition may even constitute a form of natural selection in response to the preference by big-game hunters for lions with impressive manes.

(2) A surviving Cave lion (P l. spelaea), a Middle Pleistocene felid from Southern Europe, although it was much heavier, ranging from 550 to 1,100 pounds.

Sources: John Henry Pat t erson, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures (London: Macmillan, 1907); Peter von Buol, "'Buffalo Lions': A Feline Missing Link?" Swara: The Magazine of the East African Wildlife Society 23, no. 2 (July-December 2000): 20-25; Philip Caput o, Ghosts of Tsavo: Stalking the Mystery Lions of Tsavo (Washingt on, D.C.: National Geographic, 2002).

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