Unlike the England’s other giant hill figures, which are usually horses, this unique geoglyph shows the king of the jungle in all its feline glory. The unusual choice of subject was created for an equally unusual reason.
The colossal cat was dug into a chalk hill within the Dunstable downs near the Whipsnade Zoo, the largest zoo in the United Kingdom. The Zoological Society of London had the lion constructed to warn pilots not to fly too low and scare the animals. The hill carving was also meant to be a bit of advertising for the zoo.
The 483-foot-long lion was carved in 1933 and designed by R.B. Brooke-Greave. Originally, only the outline of the cat could be seen, but it was eventually completed to become the largest geoglyph in the country.
Over the years, the lion was allowed to fall into a bit of disrepair and became overgrown and rather unsightly. But fortunately, in March of 2018, a neighbor who was having excavation work done donated 50 truckloads of chalk so the zoo could make the lion look as good as new.
It’s said that a colony of wallabies likes to frequent the geoglyph from time to time. People have also reported seeing cavies, giant South American rodents, visiting the hill carving.
Know Before You Go
The nearby hill, Ivinghoe Beacon, offers a good view and was used to check on the lion’s shape during construction. There are also good views on the B4540, B4506, and A4146.