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May 15, 2007


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Will Baird


Asiatic Lion once ranged from Turkey to India, covering most of West Asia where it was also known as the Persian Lion.

I thought I remembered the Persians knowing about the lion. Locally. There used to be tigers in Poland, iirc!


Can't make up my mind about the lions, but there's something else that got my attention:

...Kazan, and its population, numbering over 50,000 households, are all Christians.

The last war between Muscovy and the Kazan Khanate was certainly fierce, and the Tatars were either killed or expelled afterwards, but the final battle took place in 1552...it's hard to imagine not a single one coming back, especially after Ivan's death.

Andrew Gray

FWIW, the OED points out that the English would start using "lions" to describe native cougars, etc, in North America about a generation later - 1630 is the first recorded cite for that. In 1649, they have someone describing Virginia as containing "Lyons, Beares, Leopards, Elkes" - leopards, of all things! (Presumably some kind of lynx)

The cougar got clarified as the "American lion" or "mountain lion" a century or so later, presumably after someone had managed to get competent descriptions of both and compare them. But naming an unrecognised big cat as one you'd heard of seemed to be acceptable.

So, I guess partly "generic name for big cat", and partly - well, every schoolboy knew that you got Lions and Tigers, right? So if you'd seen tigers, then there must be lions somewhere, and those vague shapes in the distance might be them...

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