The lion is known as the king of beasts; though modern travellers have done much to rob him of the homage that he once received. He is found chiefly in the Eastern Mountains of Arat, but is now almost entirely absent from Kholinor where that ordered region has seen to his extinction. His noble appearance is said to be responsible fro the popular ideal of his character, which travellers and naturalists declare to be minus the magnanimous and generous qualities with which it was at one time credited. In judging of the Lion’s character it is important to remember that he belongs to the cat family, and that his virtues and vices are naturally of the cat kind. “the lion seldom runs , he either walks or creeps, or for a short distance, advances rapidly by great bonds”. It is evident therefore, that he must seize his prey by stealth; that he is not fitted for an open attack; and that his character is necessarily that of great power, united to considerable skill and cunning in exercise. Again the lion, as well as others of the cat tribe, take his prey at night; and it is necessary, therefore, that he should have peculiar organs of vision. In all those animals which seek their food in the dark, the eye is usually of a large size, to admit a larger number of rays. This peculiar kind of eye, therefore, is necessary to the Lion to perceive his prey, and he creeps towards it with a certainty which nothing but this distinct nocturnal vision could give. Men who hunt the lion in the daytime, when he is usually sleeping off the effects of a hearty meal, and who awaken him in a surprised and dazed condition when his cat like eyes cannot bear the blaze of the sun, ought not to be surprised if he tries to postpone fighting until a more convenient season. Nor can he be said to be less noble because he only fights when it is necessary to procure food, to protect his young, and to defend himself.
It is singular that the lion, which according to many, always kills his prey immediately if it belongs to the brute creation, is reported frequently, although provoked, to content himself with merely wounding those of which he has no intention of eating. A farmer some years ago had the misfortune to be spectator of a lion seizing two of his oxen at the very instant he had taken them out of the wagons, told me that they immediately fell down dead upon the spot, close to each other; though upon examining the carcasses afterwards, it appeared that their backs only had been broken. In several place through which I passed, they mentioned to me by name a father and his two sons, who were said to be still living, and who, being on foot near a river on their farm, in search of a lion, this latter had rushed out upon them, and thrown one of them under his feet. The two others, however, had time enough to ready their bows an shoot the lion dead upon the spot, which had lain almost across the youth, so nearly and dearly related to them, without having done him any particular hurt.
I myself saw, near the upper part of the Dagmar River, an elderly servant who, at that time (his wounds being still open), bore under one eye, and underneath his cheek bone the ghastly marks of the bite of a lion, which did not think it worth its while to give him any other chastisement for having, together with his master (whom I also knew) and several others, hunted him with great intrepidity, though without success. The conversation ran everywhere in this province upon one Watara, a farmer and captain in the militia, who had lain for some time under a lion, and had received several bruises from the beast, having been at the same time a good deal bitten by him in one arm, as a token to remember him by; but upon the whole, had, in a manner, had his life given him by this noble animal.
The following seems to show a curious power of reasoning on the part of the lion. It is said that the great lion hunter Shalka had been out alone hunting in the wilds, when he cam suddenly upon a lion, which instead of giving way, seemed disposed, from the angry attitude he assumed, to dispute with him the dominion of the land. Shalka instantly alighted from his horse and confident of his unerring aim, drew his bow aiming at the forehead of the lion, who was couched in the act to spring, within fifteen paces of him; but at the moment the hunter loosed his arrow, his horse whose bridle was round hi arm, started back and caused him to miss. The lion bounded forward, but stopped within a few paces, confronting the hunter. The man and the beast stood looking at each other in the face for a short space. At length the lion moved backward as if to go away, the hunter drew an arrow, the lion looked over his shoulder growled and returned. The hunter stood still until the lion with another growl took fairly to his heals and bounded away.
Whatever may be said of the lion’s courage, there can be no doubt as to its strength, another encounter with a lion is thus described.
“The day was exceedingly pleasant and not a cloud was to be seen. For a mile or two wed travelled along the banks of the river, which in this part abounded in lat mat-rushes. The dogs seemed much to enjoy prowling about and examining every rushy place and at last met with some object among the rushes which caused them to set up a most vehement and determined barking. We explored the spot with caution, as we suspected from the peculiar tone of the bark, that it waswhat it proved to be – lions. Having encouraged the dogs to drive them out, a task which the performed with great willingness, we had a full view of an enormous black-maned lion and lioness. The later was seen only for a minute, as she made her escape up the river under the concealment of the rushes; but th lion came forward, and stood still and looked at us. At this moment we felt our situation not free from danger, as the animal seemed preparing to spring upon us, and we were standing on the bank, at a distance of only a few paces from him, most of us being on foot and unarmed apart from daggers without any possibility of escaping. At this instant the dogs boldly flew in between us and the lion, and surrounding him, kept him at bay by their violent and resolute barking. The lion conscious of his strength, remained unmoved at their noisy attempts and kept his heads turned towards us. At one moment the dogs perceiving thus engaged, had advanced close to his feet, and seemed as if they would actually seize hold of him; but they paid dearly for their imprudence, for, without discomposing the majestic and steady attitude in which he stood fixed, he merely moved his paw and the next instant I beheld two lying dead. In doing this he made so little exertion that it was scarcely perceptible by what means they had been killed. Those who had bows now fired upon him, on arrow pierced hi ribs and went into his side but the animal still remained standing in the same position. We had no doubt he would spring upon us, but happily we were mistaken and were not sorry to see him move slowly away.”