It was he, Scarface the lion (Scar), curled up like a housecat in the grass, his thick dew-covered mane sparkling in the sun. His brothers Hunter, Sikio, and Morani were nearby; they also slept. The Four Musketeers, known for their prowess and savagery, instead looked precious where they lay.
Updated March 3, 2019
Though all are well known, Scar is the real celebrity. To see him in real life is considered a “thing”. In Kenya’s Masai Mara, when travelers on safari compare notes there’s one defining factor, those who’ve seen Scar and those who have not. Photographers from around the world quake with delight at the sight of him. (You can find additional photos and some video on the Scarface the Lion Facebook page.)
His virility is legendary and coupled with his rugged good looks—a black widow’s peak and a mane that sweeps back from his forehead like a
How did Scar get his scar?
Scar earned his moniker in 2012 when he lost his right eyelid while making a territory grab with his three brothers Hunter, Sikio, and Morani. (Here’s a photo of him at that time.) They won the paws of the fair Marsh Pride females, defeating the lesser males they killed or sent packing.
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Though he’s not without his close calls. He narrowly escaped death after being speared by a Maasai warrior protecting his cattle. But with the help of conservancy vets he was soon back on the hunt.
An Encounter: The Sleeping King
I’m alone in the jeep with my guide Sammy. Earlier, we’d heard from a couple of rangers that there were big cats ahead. Putting the vehicle in gear, we sped along the dusty dirt road to the spot where the four lions lay, not knowing if the male we sought was among them. I looked at Sammy, his binoculars digging into his forehead, as his concentration gave way to a toothy grin. “Scar!” he whispered. I was overjoyed.
Watching him sleep, I’m trying to imagine him in battle. Claws extended, his face twisting into a snarl as a low guttural rumble explodes into a deafening roar. But I can’t, he looks too sweet, too vulnerable, like an oversized pet.
For a moment he raises his head. Is that a baboon alarm call telling its troop that the lions are near? He sniffs the air then surveys the landscape. Indifferent to the waking plains, he uses his large paws as a pillow and falls back to sleep,
I will see Scar a few times after this first encounter, walking alone through the high grass or sleeping yet again. I never see the stuff his legend is made of. But at night I hear it, I hear the warrior, his husky bellow piercing the black with a force that shakes the trees.
I hear the king, the legend, claiming his domain.
Every migration season, I prepare myself to hear that Scar is no more. He’s a feisty one but the reality is he’s pushing 10-years-old and for a battle prone lion, he likely doesn’t have much longer.
In this recent clip of Scar in November 2018, he’s still hanging with the ladies but, apparently, an injury to his hip has resulted in a limp and the inability to use his right hind leg. According to a guide who frequents Scar’s territory, it’s been this way for a while. In the video below at 1:08 you can see he’s walking at a natural pace even with his deficit.
I fear the clock is ticking on this wonderful boy.
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