Inside the incredible LA 'lion farm': Vintage pictures show big cats being trained for Hollywood movies as they pose with school girls and attend dinner parties
- Gay's Lion Farm was founded by circus performers Charles and Muriel Gay in El Monte, California, in 1925
- Around 200 big cats lived at the park, where the couple would breed and train them for the movie industry
- The park quickly became a major tourist attraction as people flocked to see the lions perform tricks and stunts
- The lion farm was forced to close in 1942 as war rationing meant there wasn't enough meat to feed the cats
These incredible images show hundreds of lions being taught to perform tricks, pose for drawings and even sit down at dinner parties.
Gay's Lion Farm in El Monte, California, was opened in 1925 by former circus performers Charles and Muriel Gay.
Mr Gay had a long career working with the big cats and often trained the animals to work in the burgeoning movie industry.
A woman sits on an orange crate and poses next to one of the lions at the former Gay's Lion Farm in El Monte, California
The lions at Gay's Lion Farm were trained especially for the burgeoning movie industry that was expanding in Hollywood in the 1930s
A group of men sit at a dinner table and raise a toast to a lion called Numa. He was the inspiration behind the lion in the Tarzan films
A brave group of schoolgirls hold hands in a circle around another one of the lions, who lived at Gay's Lion Park between 1925 and 1942
His big-cat venture with his wife began in LA in 1914 with just three lions being trained at an attraction in MacArthur Park.
It proved very popular and the operation rapidly expanded.
Realising more space was needed the Gays found a large plot of land in El Monte, close to Los Angeles, to raise more lions.
At one point, Gay's Lion Farm housed 200 of the creatures, and it was dedicated to their breeding and training.
One lion there, Jackie, even became famous after being chosen to be the animal to introduce MGM films between 1928 and 1956.
The park then quickly became a massive tourist attraction as people flocked to see the lions in action.
Charles Gay, pictured, was the founder of Gay's Lion Park. He was a former circus performer, who had trained the animals for the movies
Mr Gay looks as though he is going head to head with one of his animals, who rises up on his back legs and jumps up at his trainer
His park was also responsible for the breeding of African lions. Here Mr Gay is pictured holding up two young cubs
Mr Gay teaches one of his young cubs to hold his own bottle of milk during feeding time at Gay's Lion Farm. The image on the right shows that the cub has clearly got the hang of things
Mr Gay had to close his lion farm in 1942 as war rations meant there was not enough meat to feed his big cats. After the war ended he fell ill and was unable to re-open his park
One of his big cats allows Mr Gay to take a ride on his back. One of his most famous lions was Jackie, who was the face of MGM films
And charming pictures from the time show people getting up close and personal with the animals, including, shockingly, a group of school girls, who held hands as they circled one of the lions.
Other images show Mr and Mrs Gay cradling young cubs and even announcing which youngster was the cutest baby lion.
However, in December 1942 Gay's Lion Farm was forced to close due to America entering the Second World War.
Mr and Mrs Gay along with veterinary staff check over some of the young cubs that were born at Gay's Lion Farm in the 1930s
Mr Gay ran his lion farm alongside his wife Muriel, pictured, who was also a former circus performer
Mrs Gay balances two very young cubs on her shoulders. At its peak Mrs Gay and her husband looked after 200 lions
Feline hungry: All of the young lion cubs gather around Mrs Gay as she holds out a bowl with food
War rationing meant it was impossible to get the right amount of meat required to feed the lions so many of the animals were loaned to zoos around the country.
By the time the war was over, Mr Gay was too ill to reclaim his cats and restart his lion farm.
He ended up retiring to Balboa Island in California and died in 1950.
The lions had many enclosures in the large park, including this one that contained a vintage car and two dummies
Several of the lions line up together on a large plank of wood inside their enclosure. During the Second World War, they had to be loaned out to other zoos across the US
Some of the lion cubs and older big cats gather together beside a tree trunk for a picture. The vintage images are now owned by the Los Angeles Public Library
Two young lions are perplexed when they see their own reflections in a mirror that was left inside their enclosure
Two lion cubs pose for the camera. Mr Gay died in 1950, eight years after his lion park in El Monte was forced to close
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