A tragic story of a family that had three massive lions as pets – Don’t open if you’re too emotional (With Real Pictures)

n the 1970s, there was a family in Soviet Union which kept real lions as home pets in their small apartment in Baku city (now Azerbaijan). The head of the family – his name, ironically, was Leo (or Lion in Russian) was a normal Soviet architect. One day, he got a lion cub from the zoo. The little lion had been rejected by his mom-lioness and people of the zoo lost hope to bring him up. So Leo kept a cub for himself. This was the beginning of a long happy story with a really tragic ending. And this is not what you probably think happened. We have this story inside so let’s read on
He had succeeded in feeding a lion. The animal started to grow, right in the family apartment of Leo. It was a normal family of four – Leo, his wife, and two their kids. The lion was growing and was totally peaceful towards people. In less than one year, it turned to a full grown animal with a huge hair mane. They called him “King” and they were saying that his temper was of a noble one.

Their neighbors however were not so happy about the lion living in their apartment block. They complained at the smell and also were irritated at the roar from the lion, sometimes even at night. Also meeting a 400 pound lion in the hallway or in the elevator was not too exciting for them, obviously. The woman also told that they were putting the stainless steel nets on the balcony so that the lion couldn’t escape from their second floor apartment and then they were letting it walk freely around the place. “If he was too bored he just arrived to our bed, climbed on it, pushed out of the bed me or my husband and went to sleep till the next morning. Also kids were doing everything they wanted with him – rode him as a pony, were pulling his whiskers off etc – he never replied with anger”. After some time as more and more people were learning about such an exotic pet, they started getting offers from the movie makers to use their pet for filming. So they started bring the animal to the set and soon it participated in a few very popular Soviet flicks. This allowed the family to travel a lot, to get acquainted with some famous people such as movie stars and famous directors and of course to earn some extra income which helped them keeping an animal. However this business had a tragical ending.

One day the family arrived for another shooting in St. Petersburg city. They kept the lion in the school at nights, that was his a hotel for the time being. The movie people were trying be precautions: a special loudspeaker equipped car was circling around neighborhood and announcing that there is a lion in the school, so avoid walking around. And it all went fine, until one local student, who have heard the rumors about the lion went to see what it all was about, together with his girlfriend. They arrived to the school and the guy went inside the territory. He then spotted a lion in the window who was overlooking the street. The student started play the ape behind the lion – showing him funny faces and then turning his back to the lion and bending down. Nina says that at that time the lion was staying with their assistant Sasha, who exactly in this moment went away to get some snack or pack of cigarettes from a store. Earlier those days they were training a lion for a scene in the movie when people play the ape for him and then he runs on them and puts his paws on their shoulders. Then he had to walk away – according to the screen play. So this time the lion was already trained – he pushed the window glass and ran on to the dude. The dude was scared to the ground, so was his girlfriend waiting outside. She became shouting “Help!Help! Lion is tearing up my boy!”. Same moment there was a policeman walking back from his job. He has heard the shouting girlfriend and ran to them. When he saw a student on the ground and the lion above him he started shooting.

Sadly they couldn’t save the lion. The whole family was sad. Even their dog. They say that in fact the dog has suffered the most from the missing lion. When the family has returned home and brought the things of the lion – his leash, his boxes etc. the dog, Chap, was running around and searching for the lion. When he finally understood that the lion won’t come, he climbed in one of his boxes and refused to leave. Day after he died from a heart attack as they were told by a local vet. Nina said that kids were very sad too. “They were waking up at night shouting King! King! Don’t leave us alone!”. So guess what? The family decided to take another lion! The new lion was a new story. Nina was saying that she was against this idea. But nobody listened to her. “That King I, the first lion, was grateful for us that we saved him from the death, massaged his paws, fed him and kept him warm, so he was paying us back with respect. The new King II was not saved by us, so he was demanding that we would respect him instead”. Besides a King II lion the family got at around same time a mountain lion.

The new King was also participating in the movies. However this new lion was much more aggressive and there were already a few incidents on the set. First, he has bitten in the leg the director who wanted to force the lion to jump into the cold sea water. We know that cats don’t like the water, don’t we? The second occasion was when an assistant of cameraman was swinging something too fast before King II’s face. He paid for this with his finger. However thing swede going pretty nice inside the family. The lion was very friendly with the people, especially he respected the Leo – head of the family was probably head of his pack. Looked like Nina was wrong with her bad feelings towards the new animal. However, she was not. In 1978 Leo dies from a heart attack. The woman with two kids is now left alone with a giant lion and a smaller mountain lion – the puma. She panicked and wanted to give away the animals to the Berlin’s zoo in Eastern Germany. They almost got it thru but then it didn’t happen.

Nina recalls: “After the husband’s death it was too hard for me to keep it up. However in the beginning the lion was pretty respectful to me, but he missed a lot his master, Leo. He was finding his things and laying down on them, was searching for Leo in the apartment.”. One day in 1980 the woman came back from work home. She noticed that there was some strange smoke in the apartment. The lion was roaring and angry, the puma was sitting on the sofa. She went on the balcony and noticed that their neighbor, a drunk alcoholic was burning something and throwing some this burning stuff onto the lion. Woman quarreled with a neighbor, closed the balcony and went back inside. The lion was still nervous. He went on his top shelf, his nest. Then her fourteen year old son has came back home. The woman started giving him a meal and slicing meat for the lion. Then suddenly lion has felt down from his top shelf on his back. This probably hurt him a lot, so he roared and attacked a woman. Her son tried to stop the animal, grabbed him by the leash but the lion has killed him. The woman passed out. When she got back to conscience the lion was already dead. The neighbors had called the police which climbed inside the windows and shot the animals.