In November of 1997 and again in September of 1998, I took trips to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois to see the infamous lions for myself. I took the following photos for this this page. To speed up page loading, many of the images are presented as thumbnails. Most of these then offer two different sized images you can look at.
If you found you enjoyed these images, you might want to consider visiting the Field Museum in person. Seeing these lions firsthand is an unforgettable experience!Click here for a larger picture. (jpeg 53 Kb)
Here are three views of both lions. One was taken without a flash, so different detail would be visibfferent detail would be visible. The one laying down is the one killed first (Hereafter referred to as maneater #1. DOD 12-9-1898) The standing lion was killed a couple weeks later, on 12-29-1898. (Hereafter referred to as maneater #2.) The third picture shows me standing with the lions, to give you an idea of the sizes of the animals.
Of course, the most notable thing in these pictures is the nearly total lack of a mane for male lions. Maneater #1 has only a fine tuft of mane just in front of the ears. Maneater #2 has a patch of long hair on both cheeks, and two patches of dark hair on the fronts of the shoulders. The other thing to keep in mind about these lions is they are thinner than they really were. These lions spent the first 26 years of their afterlife as rugs. Much material was lost from converting the rugs back into mounts, and even more was lost repairing gunshot holes. You will notice scratches all over both lions. These came from crawling through the thorny bushes of the Tsavo area, and from breaking through the walls of thorns called Bomas the workmen constructed to protect themselves. (The lions all but ignored them!) Note the tassel at the end of the tail is also much thinner than usual. Maneater #1's tassel is the same way. This might be as much damage/reconstruction as it might be their natural state from crawling through thorns.Click here for a larger picture. (jpeg 61 Kb)
Here are three pictures of maneater #1. The first is a top-down view. He kind of looks like an oversized kitty-cat taking a nap. Note the claws, shown partly retracted. The next two pictures show this lion from either side. The presence of the glass made these pictures somewhat hard to take. Nevertheless, the astute observer may notice some confusion in the fur immediately behind the left shoulder. (Lower picture) This may very well be the repaired bullet hole from the bullet that ended this lion's grisly career.Click here for a larger picture. (jpeg 64 Kb)
Here are three pictures of maneater #2. The first is a fuller view, taken from the front and slightly to the Left. In this picture, patches of mane are clearly visible on the fronts of the shoulders, and behind the ears. In this picture and to a lesser extent in the bottom one, some traces of damage from the bullet that hit this lion in the face are visible. The two dark lines on the chest may be evidence of a bullet wound there as well. (Or, they may be thorn scratches, etc.) The middle picture shows this lion from the left. You may notice a dark spot on the ridge of the back (Also visible in the picture at the top of the page.) This may be the from the bullet wound that the lion sustained about 10 days before he was actually killed. There are no less that six bullet holes in this animal! Another may be visible on one of back legs, but I haven't found it.Click here for a larger picture. (jpeg 53 Kb)
The skulls of these two lions are on display seperately from the mounts. These pictures are of maneater #1's skull. In the top one, note the poor condition of the incisor teeth. In a healthy lion, these teeth interlock, just like all of the rest of the teeth. In the second photo, note how the lower right canine is broken. The third picture, although not as sharp as I would like, shows a closeup of the lion's front teeth. Colonel Patterson beleives that he shot out the tooth in an incident about a month before the lion was killed. Although this looks fairly fresh to me, the body of of the tooth is at an odd angle in the jaw. The jaw looks darker around the root of the tooth. (The root extends very deeply into the jaw.) It is possible that this tooth might not have been in very good shape to begin with. It is also possible that the bone had time to grow back after the injury, and grew back improperly after such a shattering injury. Cats generally heal quickly after an injury, so this is not inconceivable. It is also possible that the damage to the other teeth is relatother teeth is related to the damage to the canine tooth. You be the judge! (I will add that the record suggests that maneater #1 did most of the killing.)
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Here, we have pictures of maneater #2's skull. In the top picture, we see that a lot of bone is missing or damaged. This was probably the result of a gunshot that struck the lion in the face. Even with this much of it's jaw missing, it still managed to 'bite savagely at a branch' while it was dying. The lower picture shows more of the damage. The wing on the left side of the mandible is missing. This wing, incidentially, allows a lot more muscle to attach to the mandible than if it wasn't present. This, along with the piano-hinge-like mandibular joint gives the lion it's incredibly powerful bite.
You will also notice that the lower right canine is broken off, just as in maneater #just as in maneater #1. However, this looks like an old injury to me. The rest of the teeth appear to be in pretty good condition. This is readily shown in the bottom picture.
But why did these lions turn into man-eaters? The main reason suggested for their grisly habit is the abundance of dead workers that were left along the tracks. Many of the railroad workers died of malaria, and were just left along the tracks with a live coal in their mouths. The Moslem workers beleived the bodies would self-cremate. Of course, they didn't. (It was pointed out to me that the Moslem tradition calls for burial of the dead. In the account where this idea was suggested, it was also mentioned that circumstances prevented a timely burial. It is interesting to note that almost two thirds of the Indian workers recruited for the project never lived to return home. Disease was the major killer.) The lions obtained easy meals from these victims, and developed a taste for man.
Another source of easy meals, in a theory just recently advanced, was dead and dying slaves. A major slave trade route ran through this area. When slaves were marched to the markets on the coasts, they were often mistreated. Many became ill, or died on the way. These victims were simply left along the trail, and provided human food for the lions. Research is being conducted by the g conducted by the Field Museum to investigate this theory. It is also believed a shortage of wild game contibuted to the lions' man-eating habits. A major epidemic had wiped out quite a bit of the lions' natural food supply. This theory has backing in that man-eating by lions was not infrequent in East Africa in those days.
Another theory that has been advanced has to do with the poor condition of the lions' teeth. Perhaps they found that man was easier to kill and eat than their normal prey. Last, but not least is the lions' lack of manes. Perhaps these lions had trouble getting and holding a pride of their own. They grew older, and were less able to hunt, and didn't have the females to support them. So, they turned to the easiest- and most dangerous- prey they could find, namely man! A maneating lion recently killed in Mufwe, Zambia area was also a maneless male. (This lion is now on display at the Field Museum. See the Field Museum page on this site for more info about this incident.) Bruce Patterson, of the Field Museum has recently published a paper about the possible relationship between the condition of the lions' teeth and their maneating habit. You can learn more about this paper on the Tsavo Resources page on this site.
Someone recently suggested an interesting thd an interesting theory as to why these lions turned maneater. As farfetched as this seems, this person is currently researching big cat behavior, and how it is modified by nutrition. So, I think his idea is worth consideration. Here goes:
Someone has suggested that humans don't taste too good to carnivores. (A book I once read suggested we taste like pork.) So, this is part of the disincentive for lions to eat humans. However, the Tsavo area is an area where many trace elements are missing in the soil. Many of the victims were Indian railroad workers. Having lived recently in another part of the world, their bodies contained amounts of trace elements uncommon in the Tsavo area. Now, recent research has shown that if some trace element deficiencies are corrected through diet, the animal feels immediately better. So, these Indian railroad workers, although not tasty, may have made the lions feel better. Therefore, they preyed more on humans for health reasons they could sense.
Another person suggested to me that maneating might be a declaration of war on man by the lions. They were angry that man would invade their territory. So, their attack plan was to eat their adversary! A webpage by this individual describing this theory is hopefully forthcoming.
Another chilling thought tochilling thought to keep in mind as you look at these pictures. Whenever you look at an animal, virtually everything you can see (hair, skin, internal structures, etc.) is made of protien. These lions had been living on a steady diet of human for nine or more months, and had ample oppurtunity to grow a new coat. As a result virtually everything you see on these lions was originally human protien! (Didn't these lions realize the average human wouldn't pass USDA inspection?!)
In an attempt to put an end to much of the speculation, Tom Gnoske of the Field Museum recently published a lengthy paper entitled "Causes of man-eating among lions (Panthera leo) with a discussion of the natural history of 'The Man-Eaters of Tsavo' " in the Journal of the East African Natural History Society. This lengthy paper opens by showing that man-eating among the big cats is quite commonplace through recorded history. In essence, we are primates; lions eat primates. In addition, the study finds that man-eating is actuall more likely to be practiced by male lions in the prime of their lives. From detailed stodies of the maneater's skulls, it has finally been determined that these lions were between 6 and 8 years old, in the prime of their lives. The canine injury on maneater was an old injury, and the skull had 'remodeled' itself to accomodate the injury. So, as far as can be determined, both lions were healthy.
To back up this
To back up this finding, records of problem lions (Livestock takers, and even a couple lions that had a short history of man-eating )culled along the edge of Tsavo National Park were studied. It was found that most of these animals were males, and that the vast majority were in the prime of their lives. So, if you want to avoid being a lion meal in Tsavo, avoid males in the prime of their lives!
Other factors that led to the specific instance of the Tsavo maneaters were a lack of normal prey, unusually thick thornbush at that time, and a legacy of man-eating brought on by the easy availability of dying/dead slaves and railroad workers. Other maneating outbreaks were studied and found to have much in common with conditions in Tsavo at the time, especially the shortage of natural prey. So in conclusion, the Tsavo maneaters were acting perfectly normally in their taking of human prey. We were never more or less than an ordinary prey species to these lions. We were very aware of their hunting methods, but in the end, easy to catch and eat.
A very interesting finding in this study was thousands of hairs jammed in the teeth of the Tsavo maneaters. These are still being examined, but no human hair has been found yet. It is mostly lion hair and hair from normal lion prey species. The reasoning behind why no human hair has been found is that man-eaters tend to not eat the hairier parts of our bodies.
A final thought. Lets look at this exhibit from the lions' point of view for a moment. Being on public display like this is the worst possible fate that could have befallen them. After all, they are examined at close range every day by their dinner, and they can't even jump the three feet or so they need to to catch it. Such a smorgasboard and no way to enjoy it! :-)