(Panthera Leo Persica)
Shir (in Persian)
A Stuffed Persian Lion in Tehran Nature Museum (Iran) – 2000
An old figure of Persian Lion in Perspolice (Iran) about 500 B.C.
Persian Lion, is similar to a tiger in the length of body and tail, but differs in skin color which is tawny overall without the appearance of dark vertical stripes. Coat is thicker than African lions, with a longer black tail tassel and a more prominent tuft of hair on the elbows. Black patches are visible at the back of the ears. However, there is little variation in color between the sides of its body and its abdomen, the inner surface of the limbs and the outer surface.? In head, over the cheeks, sides of the neck and chest.
There is even one example of a melanistic Persian lion. The archaeologist Sir Henry Layard reports that he saw a very big Persian lion, which was described as being “very dark brown in color, in parts almost black.”
Males are larger in size than females. The size of the mane varies from race to race with the Iranian race having a smaller mane than the African one. The young are sometimes born with an even color overall, but often a row of patches is visible on the upper surface of the body. Seeming like a horizontal stripe. Patches usually disappear after 6 months but may still be visible up two or more years.
Persian lion is now extinct in Iran and there are no confirmed modern records of lion presence in central or eastern Iran, or Baluchestan, but it’s believed that lions that still live in India are the same as lions that once were living in Iran.
Lion statuette in Iran-Bastan Museum, Date: 500 B.C
Asiatic Lion in San-Diago Zoo- 1999
Stuffed Persian Lion in Museum (Iran) -2000
According to one story the last Iranian lion was killed by Zelolsoltan the son of the Naseredin Shah (before 1919) but on the other hand The last reliable report of lion presence in Iran was a 1942 observation of a pair near Dezful, by American engineers building a railway (Heaney 1943, Harrington 1977: 72).
The lion motif dates from ancient times in Iran, and is found on innumerable objects of daily use such as seals, vessels, horse equipment, and weapons and in the decoration of palaces, tombs, and temples as far back as the 3rd millennium BC. The lion was well known to the Achaemenians (6th-4th century BC) as is testified by numerous examples at Persepolis showing bas-reliefs of a lion attacking a bull, and by lion headed stone capitals. I Right from the time when the Sassanian kings visualized themselves in rock relief’s as fighting with the lion, the lion motif has been one of the most persistent in Iranian art and religion, albeit with changing connotations (cf. e.g. Tanavoli 1985).
In literature, art, stories, and the social life of the Iranians lions have always been thought of as a symbol of power, courage and greatness. Kings and noblemen have demonstrated their greatness and glory through illustrations of lions on coins and swords.
The symbol of the original flag of Iran, is a lion holds a sword in his hand and with a half of the sun behind him.
It is interesting to know that the Iranian series of Chieftain tanks built by UK during 1970s for Imperial Iranian Army, named: “Shire-Iran” (Iranian lion).
Lion was in the game category for royalty or just hunting for pleasure, and that’s one of the main reasons for extinction of this animal. Many miniatures show kings go to hunting lion trips, alone or with troops. As late as the 19th century lion hunting was one of the favorite pastimes of the Iranian nomad khans too.
Distribution in Iran
The Persian lion, once lived in valley of Dasht-e Arzhan (57 km west of Shiraz), as well as the ” Kam-Firuze” and “Gourab” hunting ground, south of Hamedan (in the late 1800s). It used to roam the oak forests of the Zagros mountains and the riverine areas of Khuzistan.