The Story of Christian the Lion As Owner John Rendall, Who Walked Him Around London, Dies

The story of Christian the lion, the pet of a London socialite in the 1960s, has resurfaced after his previous owner, John Rendall, died aged 77.

Rendall, also known as the Lion Man of Chelsea, bought the lion at the famous London department store Harrods in 1969 and was accompanied by his exotic pet at parties and on walks around the city.

Rendall died of complications from COVID on January 20, U.K. newspaper The Times reported. He was a conservationist, stemming from his love for the lion.

Rendall and his then flat mate, Anthony Bourke, purchased Christian as a cub at a time when Harrods sold exotic animals.

Writing in the Daily Mail in 2013, Rendall said that he and Bourke had been working in London in 1969 when they learned of the animals for sale in the department store.

The store had previously sold an Indian elephant calf to the son of the exiled King of Albania. The calf, called Gertie, was then given to future U.S. president Ronald Reagan.

Upon visiting the store, Rendall and his friend found two male lion cubs for sale. Rendall said that they bought Christian with the "crazy idea" that they could offer him a better life.

The socialite bought Christian for 250 guineas, the currency in the U.K. at the time, and in the year that followed, became well-known for taking the lion for drives in a Mercedes Cabriolet. The pair would also take Christian for exercise in the ground of a local church, and for walks in the city.

About a year later though, Christian got too big to live in a London apartment. And so, the pair decided to release him into the wild in Kenya.

A year later Rendall and Bourke couldn't resist a trip to Kenya to see how their old friend was getting on. They were told, however, that Christian was now the head of his own pride and therefore would be unlikely to remember them.

But they went anyway. What followed was a heart warming reunion between Christian and his previous owners.

A video of the reunion went viral on YouTube, and has been watched millions of time.

In the video, Christian can be seen running over to Rendall and Burke, and leaping onto them in delight.

However, according to a book by Rendall and Bourke, Christian hasn't been seen since 1973. Lions only live between 15 to 20 years, so Christian will now be dead.

Rendall said in following years that he hoped the lion lived another ten years and that his descendants still live in Kenya today.

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A stock photo shows an African lion. Rendall and Bourke bought Christian in the 1960s. Mark Kolbe/Getty Images