Plants and Animals

The Circus Owner Who Pretended His Lion Was not on the Loose in Birmingham City Center

The Circus Owner Who Pretended His Lion Was not on the Loose in Birmingham City Center

When a circus owner misplaced a lion in the middle of Birmingham, UK, in the 1800s, he decided merely pretend he had trapped it as it prowled the sewers below. Frank C. Bostock, the son of a traveling circus owner, was born in 1866. Frank’s father did not want him to do anything but join the family business. You know how your parents will say things like “don’t become an accountant, no matter what you do, it’s so boring”? “Every day I have to witness these pandas, day in and day out seeing these pandas nibbling on bamboo,” she said.

Frank’s father decided he wanted to be a priest and enrolled him in priest school. During a break from priest school, he worked on his father’s show and witnessed the lion tamer abusing the beasts. The beast was so nasty that it turned on him and mauled him. Frank urged his father to allow him to take the lion tamer’s place at this time, primarily out of worry for the animal. After his father told him no, he decided to leave him no choice and climbed into the lion’s cage the next day anyway.

When his father saw him in there doing a check before the show, he told him, “If ever you come out of there alive, my lad, I’ll give you the biggest thrashing you’ve ever had in your life,” which, let’s face it, isn’t the ideal way to push someone to get out of a cage. Frank’s father reduced his thrashing to simply letting the 15-year-old enter into a cage with a lion night after night when he demonstrated a penchant for not dying in a lion’s cage. You may recall that a lion had just mauled a colleague to death.

Frank joined the circus and loved it, except for one tiny problem: one of the menagerie’s two lions was a bit of a jerk (understandably, having torn from Africa and placed in a cage with a piece of food that not sits still every night). In his book, Frank wrote, “He killed one man and wounded numerous attendants.” “At all times, he demanded the utmost attention.” It did not work to be nice to the lion. Punishment was ineffective. Appeasing it at all times was the only way to keep it from mauling people.

“Any attempt at punishment or discipline with him would have been fatal; he far too dangerous an animal to risk arousing his wild nature. And the only thing we could do keep him perfectly quiet, make sure he wasn’t irritated in any way, and make him as comfortable and happy as possible, with good food, a clean house, and another lion for company.” As a result, they procured a companion for the lion, and the lion planned to be unveiled in Birmingham. This is where the plot takes a somewhat absurd turn.

They angered the angrier of the two lions while attempting to move them into a cage together, and after much rocking of the wagon, the lion (who, as you may recall, had a taste for human flesh) managed to escape the keepers and headed straight for Birmingham City Center, where around 200,000 people lived at the time. Fortunately, for those who did not want to eaten, the lion discovered an outlet in the sewers and began prowling. “To approach the lion definitely meant death,” Frank wrote, indicating how dangerous the lion was to everyone, the lion sauntering through the city’s subway system.

“Everyone in Birmingham understood what had happened in about 20 minutes, and there was widespread worry.” Frank, who was in charge of the lion and would held responsible for anyone the lion killed, was the most concerned. He was also concerned about igniting a disturbance and people grumbling about his zoo, stating, “People were flocking towards the menagerie in thousands, with anything but favorable words.”