Harrods luxury department store in Knightsbridge is now home to over 5,000 brands, selling designer clothes, fine jewelry, food, furniture and more. However, it was once the home of a legendary Pet Kingdom, selling all sorts of exotic animals such as lions, alligators and elephants.
Fittingly, this cruel practice of selling wild animals as pets is not continued by the store today. The store’s pet section closed in 2014 and was replaced by a women’s clothing section, ending one of the most extraordinary eras in retail history.
While it’s almost hard to believe today that all of these wild animals were sold right here in London, the store’s story tells an incredible story. The department store’s “Pet Kingdom” opened in 1917 and sells animals such as tigers and panthers.
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During his time in the wildlife trade, a baby elephant was sold as a gift to Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California in the 1970s. It was also reported that writer and playwright Noel Coward bought a alligator on a Christmas day.
One of the best-known tales around the world is that of Christian the lion, which was bought by two Australian backpackers in 1969. The lion cub lived with the two men in their flat in Kings Road until, as you can imagine it getting too big for the space. and had to be moved.
Luckily for Christian, he was released back into the wild by conservationist George Adamson. A year later, the pair went to visit their friend, which can be seen in the viral video which touched the hearts of many.
The clip shows Christian, now an adult lion, running up to his dear friends and giving them a big hug, after clearly remembering who they were. This practice of selling exotic animals finally came to an end with the introduction of the Endangered Species Act in 1976.
Towards the end of the pet store’s life, it instead stocked purebred dogs, cats, rabbits and hamsters. It also had a 3,000-square-foot spa, which offered most high-profile pet pedicures and designer haircuts.
These days, the department store sticks to what it knows best, selling luxury items to human shoppers around the world.
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