Little Tyke, the vegetarian lion

Photo: Ernest Reshovsky

Little Tyke is the name of this lioness, born in the zoo at Tacoma, Washington. Nursed for a broken leg, she became a rancher’s house pet, enjoying perfume, flowers, her own bed, a diet of milk and cereal. She never touches meat-which may account for the complacency of her kitten friend. (Reader’s Digest, 1968)


Georges and Margaret Westbeau rescued Little Tyke from the Tacoma zoo as a newborn. Little Tyke’s mother had previously killed almost all of her newborn cubs. She threw Little Tyke at the bars while holding one of her legs in her jaws and Georges grabbed the little cub, saying ‘you poor little tyke.’

The Westbeaus lived on Hidden Valley Ranch outside Seattle, where they rehabilitated and raised Little Tyke. She grew up around all kinds of animals and always refused to eat meat. At one point the Westbeaus offered a $1000 reward to anyone who could help them get her onto a carnivorous diet. But nothing worked. She would not eat anything that had even a drop of blood in it.

In the end Little Tyke ended up big and healthy on a diet of grain, milk and eggs, with rubber boots to chew (with perfume sprinkled on them!), as she refused bones.

George Westbeau trying to get Little Tyke to eat meat

If you can get hold of it, You Asked For It, a television show hosted by Art Baker, featured Little Tyke.

There is also this book, which you can find on Amazon. I am not including a link to it as it will expire at some point, but if you search for the title and author, it will pop up.


And here is an article (click to read)

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

11 thoughts

  1. She died of pneumonia. She refused to eat even the smallest amount of flesh or blood and was always gentle. Her vegetarianism may have come from her poor leg almost rotting when she was a cub. She was not an “experiment.” They actually offered a reward if anyone could get her to eat meat. Nobody could

  2. She (not “it”) died of pneumonia according to the book about her. I would have thought taurine deficiency would have shown up as significant well before her death, yet she appears to have been healthy. Her vegetarianism was not an “experiment.” They thought she needed meat and offered a reward of $1000.00 to anyone able to get her to eat meat. They put miniscule amounts of meat or blood in milk, and she always refused it, taking only the meat free options. She had serious wounds as a cub having been bitten and tossed by her mother, and then some other accidents, her foreleg actually rotting at one point. I have a theory that it where her aversion to flesh came from. But her personality was always gentle. She actually had a chick in her mouth that she had carried to safety and let go.

  3. Not surprised. Bible proves it so trust the Bible. Our Earth right now is cruel and is not natural for animals to eat animals. Sad.

  4. Thanks for the link to my article. Regarding descendants of Georges and Margaret, they never had children together, but both had children from previous marriages. I know a grandchild posted some footage on Youtube several years ago, but the video has since been removed and I don’t have contact info for that person. Would love to contact them myself if they turn up again.

    1. I left a comment once before but nobody got back with me George and Margaret were friends with my grandparents they used to drive me over to their home on Green River when I was little

  5. George and Margaret were friends of my grandparents they lived on soos Creek not too far away. They used to take me over to Georgia and Margaret’s when I was little well they were afraid to let the lion out because I was very young. I used to have the book but unfortunately my stepmother took it from me Margaret had given it to me when I was little. George and Margaret had a beautiful property with many animals geese chickens ducks and peacocks also I had a lot of bamboo on the property reminded you of being in a jungle I loved being there. Now I live in Buckley and one day it was mowing my lawn and an elderly gentleman had stopped and started talking to me eventually left and came back with maps from 1957 of the area in Auburn that my grandparents the gentleman and George and Margaret lived. He told me that originally he owned a Little Tyke and sold her to George and Margaret

  6. Do you know if there was ever a motion picture with little tyke the vegitarian lioness ?
    Are there any surviving members of George or Margarets family ?
    If so is there any contact information ?
    Thank you .

    1. No there was never a motion picture, but there was a television programme featuring her story. It was during the making of this programme that Tyke became ill and later died. They think it was from stress. I am sure there are members of George or Margaret’s family still alive. Contacting someone on the ranch would probably be a good starting point.

      There is also a book about little Tyke. Here is the link to buy it

      1. Sorry Janet but I was told by George himself and my grandparents that little tyke was one of the lions that Johnny and Weis Miller used to wrestle in the Tarzan movies

      2. the cat died from taurine deficiency. The experiment caused it to die prematurly. It only lived 9 years instead on the 15-20 years that lions with proper diets live to.

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