08 Jun 2024

A Nice Story

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It isn’t that hard to find images of leonine aggression directed at automobiles. And they do apparently bite spare tires!

In the latest Spectator, Aidan Hartley shares a priceless family memory/

When my family farmed in West Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, my father had a fine Boran bull called Larasha. He adored that bull, which he had bought from the great Boran rancher Miles Fletcher in Kenya. At that time, a troublesome lion was regularly killing cattle out in the bomas of the neighboring Maasai pastoralists. One night dad’s stockman was driving home in our old Series 3 Land Rover, which had no windscreen or top, when the headlights illuminated a male lion on the track. He slowed down, expecting the beast to move off, but instead it placed its front paws on the radiator and roared at him. The alarmed stockman accelerated forwards and the lion, with its growling mouth visible over the bonnet and its hind legs planted on the ground, pushed back. The Land Rover’s wheels churned in the dirt, the lion roared and the two were locked in a deadly scrum. Then suddenly, the creature leapt up on to the vehicle and bit right into the rubber of the spare tire fixed on the bonnet. A blast of punctured air shot up into the lion’s face with sudden force, its fanged cheeks and black mane riffling in the wind, so that it was thrown backwards off the vehicle, allowing the now terrified cattleman to race off into the darkness.

On inspection later, a large tooth was found embedded in the shredded spare tire. My father suspected this must be the lion that had been troubling the Maasai — and its injury during the encounter with the Land Rover now made it even more of a threat to livestock. Very soon afterwards, the beast barged its way into one of our cattle bomas, jumped on to the humped back of that fine bull Larasha. With one mighty swipe of his paw the lion broke the bull’s neck and immediately he set upon its carcass, tearing into its guts. The herdsmen, who had been snoring nearby, woke up and gave the alarm. With shouts and whoops, the cowboys tried to shoo off the lion, but only when a man appeared with a shotgun and began blasting away, did the bloodied predator withdraw.



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