Anyone who has ever seen an old-fashioned circus act where the performers are galloping around on the backs of lions is likely to have wondered “can you ride a lion?” as a result. Lions are huge, impressive creatures, especially when you get up close to one, but if you have ever considered climbing onto the back of one, you are probably in a minority. They are known as fearsome predators, and even though they are capable of forming strong bonds with people, they can also be unpredictable and very dangerous.
Riding a lion is certainly an act that was popular in the circuses at one time, and that might encourage people to try it, but it isn’t something you should be attempting unless you are a trained professional and the lion is kept in good conditions. Lion riding might sound like an amazing experience, but on the whole, it’s not something you should even consider.
Although people do sometimes ride lions, this is purely done for the experience of sitting upon one’s back, and isn’t practical for moving from A to B. It is also dangerous, potentially exploitative, and extremely uncomfortable. Overall, it is probably an experience you should pass on, especially if you are an animal lover and you care about these giant cats.
Can You Ride A Lion?
It’s important to remember that lions are wild animals and most won’t permit you to approach them, let alone to climb onto the back of one; you would likely end up getting mauled if you even got close enough to touch one. However, some domesticated lions that are very trusting of people might permit this to happen, and it is certainly not unheard of for people to try and sit on a lion’s back. As they are pack animals, you are more likely to have success than with many of the other big cats, such as tigers, because they do at least understand social bonds.
It would not be possible to ride a lion as you would a horse, however, even if the lion permitted you to try. Felines have flexible spines and small shoulder blades, and to avoid damaging the creature, you would need to sit almost at its neck or on its hindquarters. You would also find that the ride was very uncomfortable because of the way the spine curves, and a lion probably could not carry you far.
A lion is also not really built for endurance, and its body tends to be low to the ground, which makes it a more effective hunter, but far less suited to being ridden. A fully grown male lion will stand at around a meter tall at the shoulder, whereas a horse stands at around a meter and a half or two meters tall, which makes a big difference.
Where Can You Go To Ride A Lion?
You may find that certain countries allow people to ride on lions as part of “experience” packages, but you should not attend these businesses, as they are often heavily based upon animal exploitation, and they may not be able to guarantee your safety. The only circumstance under which you should consider riding a lion is if you are a lion trainer and you have enough of a bond with the animal to feel it is a safe activity. Even then, it is better not to do it.
You may find that some safaris offer the opportunity to sit upon a lion’s back and pose for a photograph, and a zoo in Argentina permits this kind of hands-on approach between visitors and predators, but this zoo is extremely controversial and there have been many calls to boycott it for irresponsible practices, drugged animals, and dangerous behavior. Unfortunately, this is likely to be the case for any zoo that permits close encounters between guests and dangerous animals, because responsible zoos do not allow this.
If you do find an organization offering lion rides, it is best to steer clear of such a place, because this is not a safe practice, and it is bad for the animals’ well-being, as well as dangerous. Do not support or encourage businesses that allow this.
Is It Illegal To Ride A Lion?
There do not seem to be any laws against riding lions, although some individual states and countries may have laws that specifically prohibit this kind of behavior. However, lions are listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and there are many laws governing the handling and keeping of such animals. Laws regarding riding them are probably unnecessary because of the other strict laws in place that relate to owning them.
It is unlikely to be illegal to ride a lion, but you will not find any responsible business that allows you to do so. Even if a lion is very accustomed to people, wild cats are still unpredictable and it could easily lash out and kill someone, regardless of how “safe” it has always been around people in the past.
There is no reason to try to ride a lion, and a wild lion would be very unlikely to let you approach it, let alone climb onto its back. If you wish to own a lion yourself, you will need a license to keep it in most places, and you will have to meet certain conditions. Some states ban the keeping of exotic pets entirely.
So, the answer to “can you ride a lion?” is that you might be able to sit on a lion’s back and it could theoretically carry you for a short distance, but you cannot really ride a lion, no. These creatures have not evolved to bear weight on their backs, and they are very unlikely to be tolerant of somebody trying to sit on them, even if they have been acclimatized to humans. Do not try to ride a lion, either one that is kept as a pet, or one that is being held at a zoo; it is not safe, or fair to the animal.