Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Monday 1 October 2012


The latest black lion photograph circulating online

During the past few months, some very striking photographs of black lions have been circulating online. However, as I exclusively documented in a previous ShukerNature blog post (click here), I have successfully exposed all of them as Photoshopped fakes – having traced the photographs of normal tawny lions (and, in one instance, a white lion) that had been transformed into black lions.

A couple of days ago, however, I discovered online what at least to me was a new black lion photograph (the photo of a supposedly captive specimen that heads this present ShukerNature post), because I had never seen it before. But when I duly investigated it via Google, I soon uncovered its presence on a number of different websites.

Whereas the previous black lion photos were skilfully prepared, however, this latest one is much cruder, with grey lines having been added to its mane in an attempt to enhance its fur's definition, which had been obscured due to the conversion of its colour from tawny to black. Nevertheless, in order to confirm without any shadow of doubt that it was indeed a fake (produced via Photoshop or some other photo-manipulation software), I needed to track down the original photograph of a normal-coloured lion (or possibly even a white lion again?) upon which it had been based.

Happily, this did not take long, and here it is:

The original photograph of a normal tawny lion (© Andy Bird) that someone else has transformed into the latest black lion hoax photo

It was snapped by Andy Bird on 29 May 2007, using a Canon EOS 300D Digital camera, and I discovered it, together with these details, on Andy's Flickr page

As seen here, placing Andy's photograph and the black lion photo side by side reveals conclusively that the latter has been prepared from the former – but by whom?

Andy Bird's original tawny lion photograph (© Andy Bird) alongside the black lion fake photo into which it has been transformed by person(s) unknown

As yet, I have not been able to trace the perpetrator of this latest black lion photo-fraud, but at least I have been able to verify once again that genuine photographs of black lions are every bit as elusive as the latter mystery cats themselves!

And don't forget to click here for my previous ShukerNature exposure of fake black lion photographs online, and also to learn about alleged sightings of bona fide black lions in the wild. In addition, I have included a section on black lions in my soon-to-be-published all-new, full-colour book on anomalous felids – Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2012), which expands upon the information contained in my much earlier book, Mystery Cats of the World (Robert Hale: London, 1989).


  1. Drag and drop the fake image into the search box on images.google.com! Do you feel lucky? Well....

  2. I've already done this, which is how I know that the fake photo has appeared on a number of websites, but sadly none of them offers clues as to who created it.

  3. Forgive me. But at least we now know that it appeared no later than Thu Dec 06, 2007 1:54 am,


    as you may have already noticed, I suppose? Then maybe ProdigyDuck could offer a clue?


  4. This one is cooler :) http://fc06.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/158/0/9/black_lion_wallpaper_by_paulie_svk-d52lazs.png

  5. Yes, it is spectacular but I've already documented that one at http://www.karlshuker.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/black-lions-manipulation-melanism-and.html

  6. So there is no way for a black lion to be real??

  7. If a lion yields a spontaneous mutant gene allele expressing melanism, a black lion could result, especially if the allele is dominant. If receissive, two copies of this allele, one from each parent, would be needed, and as such an allele would be exceedingly rare, this is not likely to occur, but not impossible. Melanism is very common in certain cat species, such as the leopard and jaguar (though different mutant alleles are responsible in these two species), but not in others. There have been reports of black lions in the wild, but none has ever been confirmed; ditto for black tigers too, incidentally.

    1. I and my wife and son saw a black cougar on reed island bc canada some years back. sadly we didn't take a picture. we were on our boat tied to the dock and he on the shore very near. we did not know they were rare or non exsistant till we started telling people.

  8. They aren't. Male ligers seem invariably to be sterile, but a few female ligers have been fertile, and when mated with pure-bred lions have given birth to viable cubs. As noted in my latest book, Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2012): "At Munich Zoo in 1943, a female liger that had mated with a male lion gave birth to a female cub. This complex crossbreed, termed a li-liger, was successfully raised to adulthood."

  9. dove si può vedere un VERO leone nero?

  10. @Paolo - As yet, there are no verified specimens of black lions anywhere, only unconfirmed reports.

  11. Why is it that it is more common in Jaguars and Leopards to produce melanistic offspring, but so rare (or even non-existent) in lions and tigers?

  12. I am LOVING your page! Just found it, will be back :)

  13. Thank you so much - glad you like it so much!

  14. @Ben - the mutant gene allele for melanism in the jaguar is different from the one causing it in the leopard. Perhaps, therefore, neither of these mutant gene alleles has ever arisen in the lion or tiger. Having said that, there have been so many reports of black tigers that it seems more likely that such an allele has indeed arisen in the tiger but has simply died out due to the dramatic fall in tiger numbers. In the lion, conversely, such an allele may always have been exceptionally rare - after all, a black lion or lioness on the African savannahs would be extremely conspicuous, and therefore hamper its hunting prowess, whereas a black jaguar, leopard, or tiger would be well camouflaged in their shadowy junglelands.

  15. Wow, I read both of your blogs. I guess that's what they are called. They are very interesting and to the point. Written in plain English. Thank you for verifying that black lions don't exist. I appreciate your time for the education. I'll look for your book, too.

  16. Brittany Dawn4 May 2013 at 16:57

    Has there ever been an attempt to breed a fertile female Liger with a natural male Tiger? And, if so what were the results?

  17. This second generation hybrid would be a ti-liger, which I haven't encountered details of as yet. However, I know of severa other second generation hybrids of lions, tigers, and lion x tiger hybrids. Here is what I wrote about such creatures in my book Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012):

    "First-generation mammalian hybrids are usually sterile, but can occasionally produce second-generation hybrids if back-crossed with a specimen of either of their parental species. At Munich Zoo in 1943, a female liger that had mated with a male lion gave birth to a female cub. This complex crossbreed, termed a li-liger, was successfully raised to adulthood.

    "On 16 September 1983 a tigon named Noelle gave birth to a back-cross hybrid cub dubbed Nathaniel, at a private animal reserve called Shambala founded by film actress Tippi Hedren and her husband. The cub's father was a Bengal tiger called Anton - in technical parlance, therefore, Nathaniel is known as a ti-tigon. When fully-grown Noelle resembled a larger-than-average, long-limbed tigress, though some of her stripes were closed loops rather than solid markings, but Nathaniel was even more tigerine - which was to be expected, considering that his father was a pure-bred tiger and his mother was half-tiger.

    "Noelle seemed to recognise this too, as revealed by a curious behavioural quirk. In her absorbing book The Cats of Shambala (1985), Tippi Hedren recalled that Noelle could 'speak' both in the language of the lion and in that of the tiger. Mostly, she seemed to prefer 'lion-talk', but whenever she communicated with Nathaniel she always spoke in 'tiger'.

    "As a juvenile, Nathaniel was quite a pawful, due to his difficult temperament and huge size, towering over pure-bred tigers and lions of comparable age - but this did not perturb Noelle. If boxing his ears with her paws failed to subdue him, she simply sat on him - as Nathaniel was almost her equal in stature by then, this ploy was surprisingly successful.

    "On 17 April 1984, a cub was born to a liger called Julie, one of four housed at a private big cat park owned by the Vicomte Paul de la Panouse, and situated at Thoiry, near Paris. On this occasion, the cub's precise identity was something of a mystery, because no-one knew whether its father was one of the park's lions (thus making it a li-liger) or one of Julie's brothers (it would then be a liger x liger hybrid, or lig-liger for short).

    "The largest type of pure-bred big cat is the Siberian (Amur) tiger Panthera tigris altaica, up to 10 ft in total length. But for the world's largest individual big cat prior to Hercules, we must turn to Alipore Zoological Gardens in Calcutta, India - where, from 1979 to 1991, there lived a truly remarkable felid called Cubanacan.

    "Sired by an Indian lion, and with a tigon as his mother, Cubanacan was a male litigon or li-tigon, and gave voice to a lion's roar rather than a tiger's growl, though it was not so frequent, long, or deep as a pure-bred lion's. He had a mane too, but his tawny fur was banded with black fading stripes.

    "It was his size, however, that was so astounding - boasting a total length of 11.5 ft, a shoulder height of 4 ft 4 in (8 in taller than Simba, the largest zoo lion ever recorded), and weighing at least 800 lb (his irascible temper prevented anyone from obtaining an exact figure). Cubanacan was most likely sterile, as he never sired any offspring - but as there is a chance that such animals would have attained an even greater size, this was probably no bad thing!"

    1. Wow! I bought into one of these photos. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Thank you! I’ve found both of your blogs full of interesting facts about these beautiful cats and hybrids. I’m excited to see and read your book.