Visitors to China’s Louhe zoo this week got a shock when the animal in the cage marked “African lion” barked at them, revealing itself to be, well, a dog, essentially. Seems the actual lion had been sent to a breeding centre, so staff stuck a Tibetan mastiff in the cage and hoped no-one would notice. Genius.
I have rarely heard any news story that more deserved to have been a Monty Python sketch. Picture John Cleese and his family, staring into the cage, bewildered.
They call over the zookeeper (think Michael Palin in grubby overalls, carrying a bucket), who approaches. Cleese speaks sharply…
“Excuse me, my good man. That’s not a lion.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Your lion. It isn’t one. It’s a dog.”
“No it isn’t. Look at the sign: ‘African lion’.”
“I don’t care what the sign says. That’s not a lion.”
“Are you sure you had a proper look at him?”
“A proper look? It just barked at my wife!”
“No it didn’t.”
“Yes it did.”
“No, no. That was a roar.”
“A roar?!? It’s wagging its tail!”
“It’s swatting away flies. They’re terrible at this time of…”
[Interrupting] “Now, look here, my lad. I know what a ruddy dog looks like. We have two! And THAT… [pointing inside the cage] is a dog.”
The animal pads over to the bars of the cage, lifts a leg and pees on Palin’s boot.
Cleese grins triumphantly and ushers his family away.
Palin sighs and looks down at his wet shoe.