A woman tried to buy a camel at Harrods. The manager said: ‘One hump or two, madam?’
It was once a place where the wealthy could drop in and pick up a pet alligator, baby elephant or lion cub.
Harrods’ Pet Kingdom has been world-famous for nearly 100 years
and once offered enough exotic animals to rival London Zoo.
Before the introduction of the Endangered Species Act 1976,
buyers could get tigers, panthers and even camels.
Opened in 1917 on the fourth floor of the Knightsbridge building, Pet Kingdom covered 11,000sq ft.
It was also popular with royals and celebrities. In the Fifties,
Canadian actress Beatrice Lillie bought British playwright Noël Coward an alligator from the shop
as a Christmas gift.
In the Seventies, former US president Ronald Reagan picked up a baby elephant called Gertie.
The story goes that when he called Pet Kingdom to enquire about buying one,
the sales assistant simply replied: “African or Indian, sir?”
But its most famous sale came with Christian the lion cub in 1969,
given to a pair of Australians who kept it in a flat off Chelsea’s trendy Kings Road.
As it grew, owners John Rendall and Anthony “Ace” Bourke moved Christian to
their furniture store and took it for walks up and down the fashionable street.
That is, when he was not being chauffeur-driven in their Bentley.
John and Ace adored Christian, bought for 240 guineas — or £3,500 in today’s money.
Explaining why, John said: “A friend had been to the ‘exotic animals’ department at Harrods and announced,
rather grandly, that she wanted a camel.
“To which the manager very coolly replied, ‘One hump or two, madam?’
“Ace and I thought this was the most sophisticated repartee we’d ever heard,
so we went along to check it out — and there, in a small cage, was a gorgeous little lion cub.
We looked at each other and said,
‘Something’s got to be done about that’.”
So they bought Christian and took him home to their flat, where they trained him to use a huge litter tray.
After a year, the animal had grown from just 35lb to 185lb, leaving its owners with an ever-increasing problem.
But the pair were helped when, by chance, Born Free star Virginia McKenna visited their shop
and later introduced them to animal conservationist George Adamson.
He eventually released Christian into the wild in Kenya and became the subject of a book,
TV documentaries and a film.
A year after he was set free, Ace and John flew to the African country hoping to see their pet one last time.
Adamson warned them that they would never see Christian again, as he was in charge of a pride of lions
and had cubs of his own.
But on the day they arrived, a shocked Adamson said: “He’s here, outside the camp on his favourite rock.
He’s waiting for you.”
John said: “He ran towards us, threw himself on to us, knocked us over, knocked George over and hugged us,
like he used to, with his paws on our shoulders.
“Everyone was crying. We were crying, George was crying, even the lion was
In recent years, Pet Kingdom underwent a makeover and became a boutique full of designer doggy items,
visited by stars including Holly Valance, Simon Cowell and Britain’s Got Talent winner Pudsey.
There was also a range of Harrods-branded pet outfits, dog leads, beds and horse blankets.
And for the glamorous, pampered pooches, owners could get diamond studded dog collars and pet beds
— including a £1,600 four-poster covered in Swarovski Crystals.
Their pet spa offered dogs and cats a blueberry scrub facial, nail-painting sessions
and workouts on a treadmill while watching films such as ‘101 Dalmatians’.
The department did, until recently, sell dogs and small animals
but the process was a lot stricter than in the old days,
with would-be owners having an interview to test their suitability.
The pets were cared for in-store by veterinary nurses and were only on display for short periods.
The decision to shut down Pet Kingdom has been taken by the Qatari royal family — who bought Harrods
from Mohammed Al Fayed in 2010.
Via: The Sun