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Panthera leo atrox Sergiodlarosa

The Maned American LionCalifornia Lion or Lunkasoose (in Maine) is a mystery big cat, seen in a large number of different places in North America.

Resembles a male African lion. Length, 5–8 feet. Shoulder height, 3 feet. Shaggy coat. Brown or tawny. Large head. Thick hair around the neck like a mane. Muscular shoulders. Long tail with a bushy tip. Some reports involve striped or partially striped animals.

Tends to travel in pairs, sometimes with melanistic Eastern Pumas. Roars. Attacks, kills, and eats pigs, chickens, calves, colts, lambs, dogs, and cats.


A partial list of places where Maned American lions have been reported follows:

  • Arkansas—Dierks, Dover.
  • California—El Toro, Fremont, Lake County.
  • Florida—Loxahatchee.
  • Georgia—Alapaha, Berrien County.
  • Illinois—Centralia, Decatur, Joliet, Peoria County, Piatt County, Rockford, Roscoe, Will

County, Winnebago County.

  • Indiana—Abington, Elkhorn Falls, Warrick County.
  • Iowa—Muscatine, Wapello.
  • Maine—Penobscot County.
  • Missouri—Cross Timbers.
  • Nebraska—Ceresco, Surprise, Waterloo.
  • New Brunswick, Canada—Gagetown, McAdam.
  • New Jersey—North Brunswick.
  • North Carolina—Rutherfordton.
  • Ohio—Clinton County, Dodson Township, Geauga County, Groesbeck, Hillsboro, Lorain

County, Mentor, Miami Township, Morning Sun, North Avondale, North Olmsted, Springboro.

  • Oklahoma—Craig County, Rogers County, Vinta.
  • Ontario, Canada—Kapuskasing.
  • Pennsylvania—Bald Eagle Mountain, Clinton County, Jackson, Lackawanna County,

Newton Township, Nicholson, Pike County, Susquehanna County, Wyoming County.

  • Texas—Fort Worth.
  • Washington—Spokane, Tacoma.
  • West Virginia—Marlinton.



In 1797, frontiersman Peter Pentz killed a big cat with a matted, yellow-brown mane in a cave on Bald Eagle Mountain, Pennsylvania. It had been killing local livestock for six years.


Hunter Archie McMath shot and killed a yellowish, lionlike animal in Lake County, California, in 1868. It had a total length of 11 feet and weighed more than 300 pounds. The front part was stockier than its hindquarters, and it had black stripes along its shoulders and back and down its fore parts. Its hair was darker and thicker around its neck.


A maned cat was seen in conjunction with a black panther around Elkhorn Falls, Indiana, from August 5 to 8, 1948. The pair apparently migrated east into Ohio by early September.


Around August 1, 1954, farmer Arnold Neujahr saw what looked like an African lion 2 miles west of Surprise, Nebraska. Similar incidents took place closer to town and near Rising City. Residents recalled other lion sightings around Ceresco in November 1951 that sparked a lion hunt.


Near Kapuskasing, Ontario, in June 1960, Leo Paul Dallaire watched an animal resembling an African lion on his farm. It was light tan and had a mane and a 4-foot tail with a bushy tip.


On the evening of November 10, 1979, several residents of Fremont, California, reported that a large, male lion was on the loose in the Coyote Hills Regional Park. Police Officer William Fontes saw it in the Alameda County flood channel, and he estimated its weight as 300–400 pounds.


On July 30, 1986, Cindy Belmont and her brother saw a long-tailed, beige “tiger” near Jackson, Pennsylvania. It was accompanied by a shaggy animal that looked like a collie dog.


Several reports of a 7-foot-long, maned cat were phoned in to the Mentor, Ohio, police in June 1992. Although witnesses insisted it looked like a male lion, the police decided a large golden retriever dog was responsible.


On June 5, 1996, Belen Grabb was driving on Canyon Drive near Spokane, Washington, when a lion strolled off an adjacent golf course and into the road in front of her. She stopped her car 4 feet away from it. It was dark beige with a brown mane. The sighting sparked two days of intense searching for the animal.

Possible explanations[]

  • An African lion (Panthera leo) escaped from a zoo, circus, or exotic pet owner. Escapes do occur, and some may not be reported by private owners.
  • The Domestic dog (Canis familiaris) is rarely a look-alike for a large, maned cat.

However, Karl Shuker points out that both a chow chow and a Brittany spaniel have been put forward as candidates by authorities desperate for an explanation. A Newfoundland is a better match, although it looks more like a bear cub.

  • A surviving American lion (Panthera atrox), a powerful Pleistocene predator with large canine teeth that died out about 9,000 years ago, has been suggested by Mark A. Hall and Loren Coleman. Fossils of this animal have been found from Alaska to Peru, but the richest sources are the tar pits at Rancho La Brea, California. Males were about 25 percent larger than the African lion, with blunter faces and longer legs. The molar teeth indicate sexual dimorphism, leading Hall and Coleman to speculate that the female P. atrox might account for reports of a melanistic Eastern Puma. Such an extreme difference between the sexes is difficult to accept without further proof. (However, having two species of large, unknown felids occupying basically the same habitat in North America is at least equally unlikely.) Presumably, this species traveled in prides, but Maned American lions seem to travel in pairs.