Ancient Egyptian lion hunts were usually reserved for pharaohs. These hunts nearly resulted in the extermination of regional lion populations by 1100 BC. Commemorative artwork has been found telling of how during a single hunt, pharaoh Amenhotep III killed more than 100 lions.
In ancient Assyria, lion hunting was a sport reserved for kings. These hunts were symbolic of the ruling monarch’s duty to protect and fight for his people. Reliefs found in a former palace in Nineveh dating from about 645 BC in the British Museum in London show King Ashurbanipal hunting lions. The Assyrian Kings were famous hunters. They would often go lion hunting for political and religious purposes. They would think that if they were good at hunting, the gods would favor them, which the Assyrians thought would help them later. These kings are often portrayed on the plains of Syria, but there were no lions there so they were imported from Africa. To get the lion out of his cage and onto the Syrian plains, a servant would raise a door and start running. Then the lion would get beaten by dogs and beaters, so that the lion would go to the king. The king would kill the lion from a chariot with his bow and arrow or spear. Sometimes the king would kill it on foot with a sword. He would do this by holding it by the mane and then thrusting the sword into the lion's throat. Then, when the lion was killed, the king would pour a Liquid over it and give a speech to the cities(?) god to thank him, so the lion's evil spirit wouldn't come back and haunt him. The pictures of these hunts were usually hung in the king's tomb. Expert spearmen and archers would protect the king, but this wasn't really needed because the kings were expert hunters. Sometimes the king would invite some nobles to accompany him. This was a real honor and no noble would turn that chance down. Also if there were no lions, they would use hippopotamuses, elephants, giraffes, water buffalo and many others but the kings thought that the bigger the better.
Lions were present in the Greek peninsula until classical times; the prestige of lion hunting was shown in Heracles' first labour, the killing of the Nemean lion, and lions were depicted as prominent symbols of royalty, as for example in the Lion Gate to the citadel of Mycenae.
Republic of South Africa
The first South African legislation on the killing of predators was established in 1656. Six realen were awarded to those who shot or captured lions. In the 1890s, over 4000 lions were killed both inside and outside Kruger National Park in an effort to boost game populations. Between 1903 and 1927, no fewer than 1,272 lions were killed by park personnel.
Maasai lion hunting
The Maasai people have traditionally viewed the killing of lions as a rite of passage. Historically, lion hunts were done by individuals, however, due to reduced lion populations, lion hunts done solo are discouraged by elders. Most hunts are now partaken by groups of 10 warriors. Group hunting, known in Maasai as olamayio, gives the lion population a chance to grow. Maasai customary laws prohibit killing a sick or infirm lion. The killing of lionesses is also prohibited unless provoked.
At the end of each age-set, usually after a decade, the warriors count all of their lion kills to compare them with those hunted by the former age-set in order to measure accomplishment.
Empikas (warrior delegation) plan a lion hunt in advance in secret. Only the warriors are permitted to know about the day of the hunt. The secret is considered so important that Ilbarnot (young warriors) from the same age-set are denied information regarding the hunt, due to the older warriors fearing discovery from anti-hunt groups. If a warrior is found guilty of spreading rumours, he is punished through beating. In addition, the guilty warrior will be looked down upon throughout his entire age group's cycle.
Solo lion hunting requires confidence and advanced hunting skills, requiring a dedicated warrior. Unlike group hunting, solo lion hunting is usually not an organised event, sometimes occurring when a warrior is out herding cattle.
The lion hunt starts at dawn, when elders and women are still asleep. The warriors meet discreetly at a nearby landmark where they depart to predetermined areas. Before departing, the Ilmorijo (older warriors) filter out the group in order that only the bravest and strongest warriors take part. The resulting group is known as Ilmeluaya (fearless warriors). The rejected young warriors are commanded by older warriors to keep the information of the hunt confidential, until the return of their favoured colleagues. There have been cases whereby older warriors have forced warriors to give up their excess weaponry, seeing as it is considered insulting to bring more than a spear which is sufficient to kill a lion.
After a successful hunt, a one-week celebration takes place throughout the community. The warrior who struck the first blow is courted by the women and receives an Imporro, a doubled-sided beaded shoulder strap. The warrior wears this ornament during ceremonies. The community will honor Olmurani lolowuaru (the hunter) with much respect throughout his lifetime.
The Maasai do not eat game meat, and use the bodies of their killed lions for three products; the mane, tail and claws. The mane is beaded by women of the community, and given back to the hunter, who wears it over his head on special occasions. After the meat ceremony, when a warrior becomes a junior elder, the mane is thrown away and greased with a mixture of sheep oil and ochre. This sacrificial event is done to avoid evil spirits.
The lion's tail is stretched and softened by the warriors, then handed over to the women for beading. The warriors keep the tail in their manyatta (warriors camp), until the end of warriorhood. The lion tail is considered the most valuable product and after graduation, the warriors must gather to pay their last special respect to the tail before it is disposed of.
Sport Hunting Methods
Spot & Stalk
This method is typically employed by sport hunters with the assistance of a P.H. (professional hunter) and at least one native tracker.
Throughout history all manner of pariahs, hounds, terriers and mongrels have been used by man in the pursuit of lion in Africa and (in ancient times) the Middle East. Most notably among these lion hunting dogs is the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Hounding for lion (and subsequent use of the Rhodesian Ridgeback for this purpose) saw its greatest popularity and participation levels during the "Great White Hunter" period, essentially the second half of the 19th century and earliest decades of the 20th century. As hounding for lion has been on the decline since that time, hounding for leopard has seen an inversely proportional increase in popularity. This transition may be due at least in part to the increasing popularity of American and Continental scent hounds among African houndsmen and P.H.'s, as leopard are much less likely to make their stand on solid ground (as lion tend to do), and are much more likely to bay to tree. Although, comensurate with their increasing popularity, several packs of such scenthounds are in regular use today by P.H.s and guides as lion hunters throughout southern Africa.
This method of lion hunting involves the hunter or P.H. releasing a pack of dogs bred for this purpose in an area known for high levels of lion activity or over fresh spoor/tracks. The pack will track the lion and then hold the lion at bay until the hunter can close the distance and dispatch the lion at close range.
This common method involves the hunter lying in ambush from a constructed blind about 30-50 yards off from a bait, usually an ungulate carcass, after hanging or fastening the carcass to a tree in a likely area. The bait is then checked every day until there is evidence of a hungry lion present in the area. A large spoor or long black-tipped hairs on the bait signal the building of a blind. The blind is built on the ground or in a tree nearby where the hunter will lie in wait usually in mid-afternoon or early mornings.
- "CNN.com - First lion mummy found in tomb near King Tut - January 14, 2004".[dead link]
- British Museum - Room 10a: Assyria: Lion hunts
- Lions in Stone: Lion hunting in Assyria
- Patterson, Gareth (2000). Making a killing- South Africa's canned lion scandal. p. 82.
- "Facing the Lion: by Maasai Warriors". Maasai association = 2007-09-27.