Project Lio-rama

the lions need a proper home

In 2021, a new exhibit for the lions in our collection was completed. After more than 80 years without a proper home, the lions are now featured in a case depicting a diorama set in South Africa. The pair can be seen in Mammal Hall during open hours. Support from our campus and community in a GoldRush campaign as well as a generous donation from the McCall family helped the museum to achieve their goals with the lions. We thank you.

Where did the lions come from?

The two lions were presumably brought to the United States from Africa in the late 1920’s.  A man named Harry Bremer was responsible for collecting the lions.

Where did the lions live?

Harry Bremer lived in Iowa City, so after collecting the lions in Africa, he brought them back to his home in the city.  For a short time, Mr. Bremer actually kept the lions in the carriage house on his property at 1036 Woodlawn Avenue, less than 1 mile away from Macbride Hall.  Inside the carriage house, there is still evidence of the lions; there are metal posts in the ground where the pair were likely chained.  Later, Mr. Bremer donated the lions to the City Park Zoo.

What was the City Park Zoo like?

Indeed, City Park used to have a zoo.  Not much is known about the zoo, but it did have a variety of animals: chickens, monkeys, rabbits, raccoons, bears, and of course, the lions.  A young girl who frequented the zoo in the 1930’s remembered taking old bread to feed the animals.  With her back turned to the lion cage, she remembered one lion lunging at the bars, rattling the cage, and scaring her group.  She also remembered that if she left the windows open in her house on a summer night, she could hear the lions roaring in the distance.

What happened to the male lion?

The male lion unfortunately died in the extremely hot weather of July 1931.  He was only 2 ½ years old.  This explains why he does not yet have a full mane.  After his death, the male lion was brought to the Museum of Natural History.

What happened to the female lion?

The female lion lived in the City Park Zoo well beyond the death of her companion.  She died in February of 1939 and was then donated to the Museum of Natural History where she was reunited with her companion.