Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gay's Lion Farm (El Monte, CA 1925-1942)

Yes thats right! A lion farm smack dab right in the middle of good ole' El Monte. Mr. Charles Gay first erected the farm in 1925 as a public attraction that would be dedicated to the training, breeding, and exhibition of African Lions. The farm covered 5 acres of land and contained a u shaped compound with separate cages for each adult lion, a nursery, and a central arena where Mr. Gay would perform his lion tamer act for the crowd. The farm quickly became one of the most popular tourist attractions in Southern California.

Among many of the lions in the farm were a few movie stars. The MGM Studio "Slats" lion seen at the beginning of every movie came from the farm, as well as "Numa" who co starred with Charlie Chaplin in his 1928 movie "The Circus".
El Monte High School adopted the lion as its mascot in 1925 and Mr. Gay would provide a lion for big games. At its peak the farm was home to 200 adult lions. The farm was forced to close in 1945 because of a WWII meat shortage, it was almost impossible to obtain the ton of horse meat required daily to feed the cats. The lion's were loaned to zoos around the country and the farm never reopened. The site of the once famous lion farm is now a overpass for the 10 freeway. At this location you can find a bronze statue of a life-size male lion, a larger statue from the farm can be found in front of nearby El Monte High School.


  1. Thats so cool to know there was once a lion a farm in El Monte Ca...

  2. My Dad was born and raised in El Monte 1927. He still remembers the roaring he heard at night.

    1. I used to hear them at night also. As a little child, it just seemed natural that a town would have a lion farm. When the circus would come to town, they set up in the vacant lot across the street from the lion farm, and the farm lions and the circus lions would roar to each other.