Christian the lion had a highly unusual life story. Purchased as a cub by Australians John Rendall and Anthony Bourke from the Harrods department store in London, he was raised by the pair in their London apartment and he would regularly sit in the pairs car for trips to the seaside. They later moved him to the basement of the furniture store owned when he started to outgrow the flat.
When the stars of Born Free – a film which documented the life of another famous lion named Elsa – visited Christian in his living quarters they suggested that they seek the assistance of George Adamson a Kenyan conservationist. Adamson and his wife offered to integrate Christian into the wild at their compound in the Kora National Reserve. (Note: Watch the documentary Elsa: The Lioness That Changed The World).
Christian was taken to Kenya and introduced to an older male lion and a female cub in order to form the nucleus of a new pride, Christian the lion soon became the head of that pride.
Rendall and Bourke later travelled to Kenya when they were informed of Christians successful introduction into the wild, a trip which was filmed for the documentary Christian: The Lion at World’s End. They were told that Christian probably wouldn’t remember them, and it was on the trip that this now famous clip was filmed:
A second secret reunion occurred a year later, by which point Christian had cubs of his own, and a third meeting in 1974. Unfortunately that third and final meeting as the last that anybody saw of Christian. A Lion Called Christian (2009) is a fascinating documentary on the life of Christian the Lion and the encounters that he had with his former owners.
Bourke and Rendall wrote the New York Times bestselling book A Lion Called Christian, with a foreword by George Adamson, available to purchase in paperback, hardback, and audiobook editions. It was initially published in 1971 with a new edition published in 2009 after the story went viral on social media.