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Lion roaring

Two male lions have been snapped mating at a UK wildlife park

Two male lions were caught in the act this weekend, in an image which gives a new meaning to the phrase "gay pride". Russ Bridges, an amateur wildlife photographer, spotted the unusual couple when he was visiting the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster, UK, with his wife Mandy.

Recounting the scene, Bridges explained that, “There are two males and a female in that pride. One of the lions suddenly got up, walked over and jumped on his friend's back." Judging by the picture, though, I think the term 'friend' might need to be reconsidered here.

Gay lions mating at the zoo Credit: The Independent

In the shot, the dominant lion appears to have ignored a nearby lioness in favour of a rather grumpy looking male. She remains nearby while the pair get it on - apparently apathetic towards the whole situation. However, the photographer also commented that the female was snarling and swiping at her male companions whenever they approached her, so perhaps the two boys decided to pair off for that reason.

“A fair few people were watching this going on and laughing - they were all commenting on what it looked like," said Bridges, who has photographed the animals on several different occasions. He added that, "Usually they lay asleep doing nothing when I go to photograph them, but this time they were up and about."

So is this a rare occurrence, or just part of the circle of life? “It's not really unusual for them to act that way sometimes," the photographer said. "I don't know if it's a dominance thing or something like that - it looks as if they are aggressive, but it's all play between friends.”

alt Credit: The Independent

Similar images have been captured before, but whether or not they always show two males is uncertain, as there are maned lionesses in the wild. This phenomenon happens when a female lion has too many androgens, which are typically described as male hormones, and becomes "masculinised" - a situation that occurs more frequently in people than animals. On this occasion, though, these two big cats were most definitely boys.

Despite what many may believe, homosexual behaviour is prevalent in many species of the animal kingdom - including lions. In fact, in a 2006 museum exhibition titled, 'Against Nature?', over 1,500 species were proven to regularly engage in same-sex acts, so the bromance going on at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park is actually not so uncommon after all.

Bridges seemed to be amused by the scene overall, telling reporters that,

“My favourite shot is the one where he appears to be sticking his tongue out. I've never seen a shot of two males on top of one another with one sticking his tongue out before - it's like he's showing some pride in what he's doing.”

Two male lions mating Credit: The Independent

Scenes like this are very rarely caught on camera, so Bridges did an excellent job capturing the (admittedly pretty funny) images on a day out. But who knows - perhaps these lions have an ongoing relationship, and we can expect to see more of their budding romance in the future.