Many people have pets. Most have typical pets such as a cat, dog, or a rabbit. Others choose more exotic pets such as snakes, turtles, and lizards. There are certain animals that don’t make good pets. Bears, lions, tigers, and gorillas are all dangerous and usually illegal choices for pets. In the 1970s a family in the Soviet Union kept real lions as pets in their small Baku city apartment. Unfortunately, this is a tragic story of one Soviet family having three lions as pets.
A Rejected Cub
The patriarch of the family, Leo, was a typical Soviet architect. He was at the zoo one day, and he heard about a lion cub who was in trouble. The cub was rejected by his mother, and the people who worked at the zoo were trying to bring him up themselves, but they were giving up hope. Leo decided to take the cub home so that he and his family could care for him.
The family named the
Living In An Apartment
The family lived in a small apartment, which made it a bit cramped as King got bigger. The young cub started to get attached to the family. King loved Leo, and it wasn’t long before he started to love Leo’s wife, Nina as well. When they went to bed at night, King would sleep between the couple. There were many nights that he would push Leo out of the bed. Leo’s wife believes he did this because he was jealous. The family tried to bring King back to the zoo once. They figured that since they had nursed the lion back to health, that he would be better off with other lions. On the way back to the zoo, King became very angry and was jumping all over the car. When they got back to the zoo, they were told that since King had grown up with humans in a family, that he would never be able to go back to living with other lions.
The family’s neighbors in the apartment complex didn’t like the idea of a 400-pound lion living in the building. Leo’s wife put stainless steel nets in the balcony so that King couldn’t get out and the neighbors didn’t need to worry. When King was settled into his home life,
Filming in St. Petersburg City
The family was staying at a hotel while King was filming in St. Petersburg City. At night, King was kept at the local school. The hotel couldn’t take any chances by letting him stay with his family at the hotel. The lion was trained to go up to his costar and put his paws on his shoulders as soon as the trainer began moving around like an ape. A local student heard that there was a lion at the school, so he and his girlfriend went and checked it out. The assistant, Sasha, who was in charge of caring for King stepped out to get something to eat. This was when the student and his girlfriend showed up. He started acting like an ape, which was King’s cue to put his paws up on his shoulders. The student’s girlfriend panicked, thinking that King was hurting her boyfriend. She screamed for help, and the police arrived. Without hesitation, they shot King, and he died. The family was devastated. The dog family dog, Chap, was also destroyed. He ran around looking for King. When he couldn’t find him, he sat in one of King’s boxes. The next day, poor Chap died of a heart attack. The family was sure that the dog died of a broken heart. The children were also sad. Finally, Leo decided to get another lion to help them feel better.
The New Lion
The new lion’s name was King II. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as sweet as King. Leo also brought home a mountain lion who he named, Puma. King II wasn’t as kind or gentle as King because the family saved King’s life and they helped him to walk. They didn’t do these things for King II, so the bond wasn’t there. Nina didn’t agree with Leo bringing home Puma or King II. They tried to get them a spot in Berlin’s zoo in Eastern Germany. It was almost a done deal, but it didn’t go through.
Sadly, in 1978, Leo had a heart attack, and he passed away. This left Nina in charge of their children and the two lions. She said that it was far too much for her to deal with. Now that Leo was gone, King II missed his mater and he wasn’t being as nice as he once was.
The Tragic Day
In 1980, Nina came home from work, and she smelled smoke coming from the apartment. The lion was furious, and Puma was sitting on the couch. Nina went out on the balcony and saw that there was a drunk neighbor throwing burning material up on the balcony and it was hitting King II. He was very nervous when Nina’s 14-year-old son came home. She was cooking her son a meal and slicing meat for King II when the lion fell from his perch onto his back and was injured. He roared at Nina and started to attack her. Her son quickly tried to help by grabbing the leash. King II lashed out at her son and killed him. Nina lost consciousness. When she woke up, the police had killed King II, and Nina’s son was dead.
A Cautionary Tale
This family’s story is a perfect example of why lions are not meant to be family pets. While things were great with the original King, the family never should have tried to recreate what they had by bringing two new lions into the home. A story that started out as a heartwarming one eventually turned to tragedy.