Famed Man-Eating Lions Not That Hungry: Scientists

Kenyan duo credited with 135 kills ate just 35 humans
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2009 4:43 PM CST
Famed Man-Eating Lions Not That Hungry: Scientists
Two world renowned man-eating Tsavo lions are seen stuffed and on display at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.   (AP Photo)

The Tsavo lions, reputed to have consumed 135 railroad workers in Africa at the turn of the last century, were not quite as ravenous as legend would have it. The lions—whose stuffed carcasses are enshrined at Chicago’s Field Museum—actually dispatched a mere 35 souls, new research shows. Scientists analyzed the duo’s bone fragments for evidence of homo sapiens in their diet. “The possible range is between 4 and 72 humans,” one tells the Tribune. “But 35 is most likely.”

The museum acquired the lions’ skins from the Brit who killed them, Col. John H. Patterson. Patterson originally estimated the Tsavo pair had killed 28 and change, but later revised his estimate upward. The museum, which plans to revise its display materials, currently hedges its bets, saying “legend has it they killed and ate over 100 people.” But the new numbers do not diminish their “signal feat,” a museum official says. “They stopped the British Empire, at the height of its imperial power, literally in its tracks.” (Read more Tsavo lions stories.)

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