Barbary lions in the Tower of London

Genetic analysis confirms that the two lion skulls found during a 1937 excavation of the Tower of London are north African Barbary lions, most likely gifts for the Royal Menagerie.

Dr Richard Sabin, Curator of Mammals at London’s Natural History Museum, said the results were the first genetic evidence to clearly confirm that lions found during excavations at the Tower of London originated in north Africa.

He said: “Although we have one of the best mammal collections in the world here at the Natural History Museum, few physical remains survive of the Royal Menagerie.

“Direct animal trade between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa was not developed until the 18th Century, so our results provide new insights into the patterns of historic animal trafficking.”

I’m not sure what new insights he means. I mean, it seems to me not much can be gleaned about the pattern of the traffic from knowing about the mere existence of the lions in the middle ages.

Anyhow, it’s still just cool. There aren’t any Barbary lions left in the wild now, and there are only about 40 in captivity.