China 'dog-lion': Henan zoo mastiff poses as Africa cat

A Tibetan mastiff inside a zoo cage with a visitor sign saying African lion in Chinese The sign reads "feizhou shi" (African lion) but a Tibetan mastiff is in the cage

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An animal described as an African lion at a Chinese zoo was exposed as a fraud - when the creature started barking in front of visitors.

Chinese media reports said the zoo had replaced its genuine lion with a Tibetan mastiff dog.

A zoo official in Henan province said the dog - owned by one of the workers - was put in the cage when the real lion was sent away to a breeding centre.

Outraged visitors to the zoo in Louhe city said they had been cheated.

A Tibetan mastiff is displayed at a Tibetan Mastiff exposition on 27 February, 2005 in Longfang, southeast of Beijing, China. A Tibetan mastiff is a particularly hairy breed

According to a report in the Beijing Youth Daily, the fraud came to light when a mother visited the zoo, in a park in the city of Louhe, to show her son the sounds different animals made.

But when they got to the cage marked "African lion" - which had a sign describing the range and characteristics of the animal - they were shocked to hear the creature bark.

It was then that zoo keepers revealed the so-called lion was actually a Tibetan mastiff, an animal that can have a furry brown coat, making it look a little like a lion.

The woman visitor, surnamed Liu, was quoted as saying: "The zoo is absolutely trying to cheat us. They are trying to disguise dogs as lions."

The chief of the park's animal department, Liu Suya, was quoted by the Beijing Youth Daily as saying the lion had been taken to a breeding facility and the Tibetan mastiff temporarily placed in its cage because of safety concerns.

Other species were also apparently mislabelled; there was a white fox in a leopard's den and another dog being passed off as a wolf.

A photo taken on 25 March, 2013 shows a male lion at a zoological park the eastern French city of Amneville. The furry coat of the large predatory male African feline is usually unmistakeable

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