Lions have come face to face with many creatures over the years. However, it’s not every day that they take on a dachshund. It looked as though only one could be victorious.
Heading to the zoo can be great for so many reasons. Not only do we get to see animals from across the world, but it can also be a chance to learn about these magnificent creatures. Of course, if there is one animal that many of us want to see, it’s a lion as their great manes help them stand out from the other big cats with ease.
As if that wasn’t enough, lions are some of the only cats to live in a pride, with as many as 40 having been spotted together. Thankfully, lions only work when they are tired as they spend the rest of their lives sleeping under the shade of a tree. However, that doesn’t mean we are always safe.
If there are two animals that certainly don’t live together, it’s lions and dogs, especially as dachshunds only stand a few inches off the ground. No one at the sanctuary thought they would ever have to watch the pair go face to face – and there could only be one winner.
The mighty king
There is plenty that has given lions their royal title over the years. Yes, the King of Beasts has a triple threat: their presence, their mighty roar, and their flowing manes.
While many of us never get to see them out in the wild, sanctuaries have given many of us the opportunity to get close to these big cats.
It turns out they might not be too different from our house cats after all. Sadly, that doesn’t mean that we can take one home anytime soon. Lions are wild and unpredictable creatures who use their razor-sharp claws and impressive teeth to take down almost anything that stands in their way.
Building a bond
Some of us are lucky enough to work alongside big cats, with John Reinke being no exception.
He had plenty of experience with wild animals and now spends his days helping to care for youngsters who have lost their parents. It wasn’t long before John was offered a chance of a lifetime.
That’s right; he was about to take home a baby lion and tiger cub. Bonedigger the lion and Tony the tiger were soon the best of friends as they grew and played with each other. However, John soon noticed something strange. Bonedigger would rush to his side whenever Tony got too carried away while playing with John.
An ongoing battle
It turned out the young cats had already been through a lot in their young lives, with Bonedigger having to burden much more than any other big cats.
The young cub has been born with a type of metabolic bone disease. This meant that his bones were incredibly brittle and could easily break.
To top it off, Bonedigger had a handful of small deformities. Many young cubs would have found it too much to handle out in the wild. However, Bonedigger wasn’t like other lions. He was determined to get even stronger, and John got to watch his fight against his conditions every day.
Changing his life
It wasn’t just Bonedigger who had a battle on his paws. It turned out that John had also overcome a huge obstacle in his life.
It was 1994, and John was about to take part in a bungee jump. This adrenaline-filled sport was supposed to be the rush of a lifetime.
Tragically, it ended up changing John’s life without warning. John was waiting on the top of the jump by the trapdoor when it suddenly malfunctioned. John ended up plummeting 55 feet toward the ground. He had a broken back, hip, and feet. To top it off, John had fallen onto a six-inch-long metal spike.
Fearing the worst
Thankfully, they were able to rescue the animal handler and get him to the hospital. Unfortunately, it didn’t look good. The doctors warned John and his family that it was unlikely that he would ever be able to walk again.
John wouldn’t have it. He went through five years of rehabilitation.
Sadly, nothing was enough, and the doctors were forced to tell John that they would have to amputate both his legs. The infections had spread too far, and his body could no longer take the battle. Amazingly, the operation gave John a new desire to follow his passion: working with animals.
John’s accident changed his life, but in ways that he never expected. It turned out that it brought him even closer to the lion cub as Bonedigger and John both learned how to live with their conditions.
John felt as though the cub knew just what he was going through as Bonedigger was always by his side.
Tony sometimes got a little carried away and would pull too hard on John’s prosthetic legs. However, Bonedigger was always there to tell the tiger to calm down and protect his carer. It looked as though the lion and John were building an unbreakable bond. Sadly, Bonedigger kept growing bigger each day.
A new home
Both Tony and Bonedigger continued to get larger as they got stronger and became the big cats they were supposed to be.
However, this meant that John soon needed to find a new home for his feline friends as they could no longer stay in the house.
Thankfully, John didn’t have to look far to find the pair a new permanent home in Oklahoma at the Wynnewood Animal Park. It might not have been the same as having the two cats in his house, but John knew they would both have all the room and enrichment they needed to thrive as they became adults.
Feeling the separation
It looked as though it would be the best place for the young cats. Sadly, the lion cub didn’t take too well to the change. He was separated from Tony as they wanted to introduce the tiger to a group of other young tigers they were caring for in the park.
While it might have been the best thing for Tony, it meant that Bonedigger was left all alone.
The lion was given a huge grassy pen all to himself. However, lions are supposed to be a part of a pride. Bonedigger would constantly pace around this enclosure and would often bite the walls. That wasn’t all. There were no other lions at the park.
Although most of the animals at the park were wild animals, there was a group of mascots that would regularly roam around the enclosures.
They were a pack of dachshunds. The group was formed of four puppies, with Abby stepping up as the leader of the pack.
However, the dogs would often be seen getting up to no good. They would hang around the cafeteria as the dachshunds hoped to grab any scraps of food that fell their way before running in and out of the guests. To top it off, the dogs would regularly head to the aviary to taunt the parrots after the dachshunds enjoyed a good meal.
Meeting the new addition
Many of the guests fell for the pack of dachshunds, but it turned out they had a hidden passion to pass the day. The dogs would often head from enclosure to enclosure to visit all the animals at the park.
As soon as Bonedigger arrived in the park, the dogs were quick to run to his enclosure to say hello to the new addition.
Thankfully, the puppies had grown up around big cats as the park was already home to plenty of big cats. However, the dachshunds were unlike anything Bonedigger had ever seen. While they might have been some company, they weren’t quite the friends that the lion had in mind.
Years of knowledge
The park is brimming with knowledge thanks to the many keepers it has at its disposal, with Joe Exotic being one of the best.
He had been with the sanctuary wince 1999 when it first opened its doors, and now has more than three decades of experience under his belt.
Although Joe has worked with many animals, he specializes in caring for tigers and lions. To top it off, he has even started a crossbreeding program among many of the big cats to help create new species. This could be some of their only chances of survival. Now, Joe was determined to find a way to help Bonedigger settle into his new home.
The first move
Joe knew most of the animals like the back of his hand. There was only one that could step up to the job: Abby.
It might have sounded like a long shot, but Joe needed to help the cat. He ran to grab Abby’s leash before they headed to the lion’s enclosure.
Joe entered with the dachshund while another keeper kept hold of the lion. No one could believe what Joe was doing, but the keeper knew it was right. Joe had been keeping a close eye on the puppy for many days. All of a sudden, Bonedigger pulled away from the keeper. Why? He was terrified of the dog!
One final warning
There was no time to think. Joe knew the keeper had to let go of the lion to allow him to approach the puppy in his own time.
Bonedigger needed to be brave. However, Abby was more concerned about getting the young lion to play. She jumped around on the end of her leash as she wagged her tail and pulled toward the lion.
Bonedigger wasn’t impressed. The cub took a step back before he tried to let out a huge roar. While it might have sounded more like a squeak, the keepers knew they needed to get out as fast as they could.
Making first contact
It hasn’t been the first meeting that Joe imagined, but the keep was determined to help the pair build bridges and form a friendship.
After all, it could be Bonedigger’s only shot at having a friend. Joe decided to try again, and Abby was still just as determined to get the new arrival to play.
The keepers held their breath as they waited to see how Bonedigger would react. It wasn’t long before the lion cub was interested in what the dachshund was doing and he got a little brave. Her approached the puppy until he was close enough to lower his nose to the ground and sniff Abby’s fur.
Sharing is caring
Bonedigger was still cautious of his new friend. However, Abby was jumping with joy that she had made friends with the lion. In fact, she couldn’t wait to run around the enclosure.
It was soon a fun game for the dachshund as she ran from one end to the other of the cage, taking in all the smells and sounds from her new playground.
The keepers wanted Bonedigger to know that it was still his home, so they found his favorite blanket and toys to help. It wasn’t long before Abby found them, too, and now Bonedigger tried to keep them safe from the intruder. Amazingly, Abby only had one reaction: she licked his nose!
Earning an upgrade
It appeared as though the pair were getting along, and the keepers knew it was time to leave them to settle.
Although they kept checking to make sure the two were getting along, it turned out they had nothing to worry about; Joe’s plan had worked!
The park wanted to make sure the new friends had everything they needed. It wasn’t long before they got to work moving the lion and dachshund across the park to a larger enclosure. Here, Abby and Bonedigger had everything from a viewing platform to his and hers beds and everything in between. The only issue they faced was Abby’s bossy behavior.
Growing the pride
It looked as though the park finally had the hope they needed for Bonedigger.
It might not have been the most conventional answer to their problem, but everyone knew the cub needed to socialize with other animals if there was any way that he would grow up to be a healthy adult.
It wasn’t long before Joe wanted to see if the rest of the dachshunds could get along with the big cat. They rounded up Milo, Angel, and Bullet as the puppies were brought to the enclosure. Abby made her mark on Bonedigger thanks to her bossy behavior. Although the others were less dominant, they soon settled into their new pride.
A cunning plan
The five friends were soon getting along better than anyone imagined. It was time to try new activities, with a group feeding next on the cards.
The keepers decided to place raw meat for Bonedigger on one side of the enclosure and kibble for the dogs on the other.
Sadly, Abby had other ideas. The dachshund started running and barking across the enclosure, and it wasn’t long before Bonedigger was by her side trying to help fend off any threat. However, Abby was really luring the lion away from his meal so she could help herself to a steak. The best bit? Bonedigger didn’t seem to care.
Not gone for long
The lion and dachshund have a bond that many people can’t believe, and it seems as though their relationship goes further than meets the eye.
They both love some mutual grooming as they remove fleas and ticks, while Abby also helps to clean Bonedigger’s teeth.
While the group all get along, the dogs have to be rounded up when the enclosure needs to be cleaned as they love chasing the grass cutters. Bonedigger has to sit and wait while his friends are gone. Thankfully, he doesn’t usually have to wait long before the dachshunds are back causing mayhem in the enclosure.
Sharing their skills
Thankfully, it looks as though the dachshunds are all Bonedigger needed to feel at home as the pride have been living together ever since – and it doesn’t look as though that will be changing anytime soon.
As if their friendship wasn’t enough already, it seems as though the two unlikely friends have also learned a thing or two from one another over the years.
Abby now knows how to make noises and growl like a lion, while Bonedigger had picked up how to read the dog’s body language. While all the dogs are close to the lion, it seems as though Bonedigger and Abby have a special relationship.
The Terrific Trio
It turns out that Bonedigger and Abby aren’t the only ones with an unusual friendship in the animal kingdom.
There are many unlikely groups living across the world. Baloo and Shere Khan were sworn enemies in the movie ‘Jungle Book,’ but the same can’t be said for their real-life counterparts.
That’s right; Leo the lion stepped up to join the pair, and it looks as though they can’t bear to be separated. The three lived in Georgia Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary where they earned the nickname BLT until Leo lost his life in 2016 and Shere Khan tragically passed away in 2018.
An unbreakable bond
Leo, Shere Khan, and Baloo all started their journey at Noah’s Ark back in 2001. The three were rescued from a basement as they were kept as a part of an illegal collection.
All three needed a lot of treatment as they were malnourished and had all been diagnosed with various ailments.
The park thought about splitting them up. However, their journey together appeared to form an unbreakable bond as the three become one of the most unlikely trios across America. It turns out an African lion, Bengal tiger, and American black bear can learn to get along after all.
Plenty of obstacles
It turned out the team would have to work hard if they stood a chance of helping the animals recover from their former life.
Shere Khan, the tiger, was underweight thanks to months of malnourishment, but that was only the beginning.
Leo, the lion, had a wound on his nose that had been left untreated, while Baloo, the bear, was wearing a harness that had caused an infection. This is because it had been fitted when he was younger but never changed as he continued to grow. Although the three had been around people, their lifestyle meant they were wary of humans.
Together until the end
The bear, lion, and tiger – BLT – were soon some of the most loved animals in the sanctuary, thanks to their unusual friendship.
They would always sleep together, play with one another, and sometimes they were even spotted giving kisses.
Shere Khan was always known as the feistiest of the group as he would playfully pounce on his friends at any opportunity he got. Thankfully, they were together until the end. After they became a pair, Baloo and Shere Khan grew even closer. Baloo was even there with their keeper when Shere Khan said goodbye to the world two years later.
Plenty of mouths to feed
BLT took a lot of the limelight over the years, but it turns out there are more animals housed at Noah’s Ark than many realize.
In fact, there are approximately 100 species that help to make up more than 1,500 animals that live in the park.
The sanctuary’s job is to help rescue exotic and farm animals who have been abandoned or could be living in poor conditions. The animals are then taken to the sanctuary where they either settle into their permanent home or they are rehabilitated back into their natural environment. The sanctuary relies on donations to help save all their animals.
Spotting the difference
There are many similarities between zoos and sanctuaries as they both house animals to help educate people and give them a loving home. However, there are also some major differences.
One of the most prominent differences is how they acquire the animals. Most zoos trade with one another and run breeding programs within their own walls and with other zoos around the world.
Animal sanctuaries rescue their animals, usually from rouge zoos, collectors, or illegal owners. Sanctuaries sometimes rehabilitate the animals back into the wild and don’t typically have breeding programs. However, breeding programs can help to replenish the number of endangered species.
Sharing the love
It appears as though John Reinke is just one of many who have worked with lion cubs over the years. Frikkie Von Solms lives in South Africa, and he has been friends with a lion named Zion for the last 15 years.
Zion was born in a zoo to a lioness named Simba, but he had to be separated as many worried that Zion wouldn’t survive.
Male lions typically don’t take well to challengers. Frikkie stepped in to help save the lion cub thanks to his experience of raising 19 big cats over the years. It wasn’t long before the pair built an unbreakable bond thanks to being by each other’s side.
Grown from trust
Thankfully, Frikkie trusts Zion more than many would of a big cat. It turns out that the lion has never shown any aggression towards humans, and loves to cuddle up and play with his human friend.
Frikkie says they have such a strong bond because they trust one another.
Although he has rescued many other big cats along the way, Frikkie feels that his relationship with Zion is different from any of the others. They now share a bed and a truck whenever they head out together. To top it off, Frikkie even walks barefoot as the noise of shoes is too loud for his lion friend.
The other way around
Many humans have dedicated their entire life to rescuing animals and giving them the best life they can, but it turns out there have been some incidents of animals rescuing humans instead.
In fact, even lions have been seen to step in and save the day.
These big cats are always seen in prides, meaning there is a lot of muscle and planning behind every move. Back in 2005, one pride saw a 12-year-old girl on her way back from school. Suddenly, four men appeared and grabbed the student before they started to head to a rural area in a southwestern African country.
Saving the day
Amazingly, three lions soon approached the group of men and chased them away from the girl.
That wasn’t all. The lions then crowded the girl and remained by her side until the police arrived to take her back to safety. Many experts wondered why they never harmed the youngster.
It turns out that her cries were similar to a lion cub. It appears as though the lions listened to their instinct to protect the girl. Many people work in sanctuaries to help protect great animals and prove that we don’t need to live in fear. However, these wild lions proved there could be more compassion there already than we ever expected.