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  • History of Strength Sports

Eugen Sandow tests his strength against a lion

In one of the more bizarre yet intriguing stories in strength history is that of Sandow and the lion.



The matchup was originally going to be between a grizzly bear and the well known lion, ‘Commodore’. However, unrest from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, saw that this match never occurred. 


With no legislation against it and with an opportunity for publicity, Sandow’s US tour promoter Florenz Ziegfeld, saw that Sandow replace the bear and ‘fight' the lion.


The excitement in the press saw that over 3000 spectators attended to see the self-professed worlds strongest man and modern gladiator, Eugen Sandow combat the lion. 


As the ‘fight’ progressed, the lion did little more than paw at Sandow with the mittens placed on it’s paws, snarling under it’s muzzle. Most accounts tell of an underwhelming show with the lion clearly sedated, rather than the gladiatorial contest that had been anticipated.


Disheartened with the reports that followed, Sandow wrote about the encounter in his book ‘Strength and how to obtain it’. He admits a lack lustre performance from the lion but puts it down to the epic wrestle he had had with Commodore before the fight to help get the muzzle and mittens on. 


He writes how he outwitted and out-fought the fierce lion, meaning the lion knew it was pointless to fight back against the great Sandow in their second meeting.


It is clear in the reports that to end the contest and be crowned winner, Sandow picked up and carried the 530lb lion around the cage to remind the crowd of his strength and somewhat redeem the show 

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