New East Digital Archive

Dagestan’s unlikely friendship: lion meets sheep

23 June 2016

Imagine a world in which lions and sheep play happily together. This utopian vision has become a reality in mountainous Dagestan in southern Russia.

A local farmer Bayrambek Ragimov has recently made the headlines for teaching a lion to herd his sheep, and with remarkable success. “The size of the lion and her powerful roar scares local wolves off so I can be sure that nothing will ever happen to my herd. None of the shepherd dogs will be capable of that”, Mr Ragimov said to enchanted reporters.

Masha the lioness was given to the farmer by a close friend as an unconventional birthday gift in January this year. Mr Ragimov could do nothing but try to settle the cub in a herd of baby lambs in his modest barnyard. Contrary to expectations, Masha immediately integrated with the sheep and became nothing short of a cheerleader for the group. Now aged 7 months, Masha is a medium-sized lioness who seems to enjoy peaceful walks in the mountains in the company of her curly-haired friends.

The remarkable career of Masha is a fortunate exception in a world where many breeds of lions are facing extinction. Research by Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute has recently called for international funding to protect areas in West Africa where lions are still routinely killed by poachers and wild safari tourists. Whether Dagestan’s successful adoption can offer a viable alternative for keeping lions safe remains to be seen.

Source: RIA-Novosti (in Russian)