How A Fake Lion Caused An Elephant Stampede In London

By M@ Last edited 80 months ago

Last Updated 25 September 2017

How A Fake Lion Caused An Elephant Stampede In London

This is Reggie. He's the mascot of King's College London. The crimson feline looks harmless enough, but he almost caused a bizarre tragedy.

In November 1930, the Lord Mayor's Show included a group of four elephants. These are the fellows, as pictured in a news report of the time.

Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board.

Huge crowds packed Victoria Embankment. The Lord Mayor's Show is always a draw, but the supplementary pachyderms added an extra allure.

Among the crowd that day was a contingent of students from King's College London, cheerily waving Reggie above their heads.

Elephants and lions have never been on the best of terms. All four elephants trumpeted loudly at the sight of the rubicund beast. According to a press report, 'The foremost elephant suddenly turned to its left, and with trunk and tail erect, rushed screaming at the wooden lion [it's actually copper]. It seized the "lion" and trampled on it'.

The elephant then turned its attentions to the only student not to scarper, a Mr L Geffon. He was chased 'around a tree', before escaping across the Embankment.

Newspaper The Sphere made this charmingly naff 'composite impression' to show what the stampede might have looked like.

(c) Illustrated London News group.

The model lion was not the only casualty that day. In the rush to escape, around 30 bystanders were hurt. One man suffered a broken arm. Given the crowd size, the situation might have been much worse. Fortunately, the elephants were soon calmed and the parade passed on.

This surely must be the only occasion in which a lion has caused an elephant stampede in a major European city.

One of several replicas of Reggie, on display in the Great Hall of King's. The original can be seen in the Macadam Building, close to the scene of the elephant scare.

Reggie would go on to have other misadventures. In 1933, he was once again at the Lord Mayor's Show. This time, students attempted to force him into the parade, but were repelled by police. Fisticuffs ensued. A further fight broke out at Bow Street Court during the subsequent hearing. 'A lot of wild lunatics,' opined the magistrate.

The inanimate lion has since been the subject of many student pranks. Over the years, Reggie has been kidnapped, disfigured and even buried in cement — though nothing quite compares with sending a troupe of elephants into a frenzy.

Read more about Reggie the Lion on the King's College website. Original images via the British Newspaper Archive.