BEIJING (TheBlaze/AP) -- Would you be fooled if you saw this animal in a cage marked for an African lion?
A Tibetan mastiff dog is displayed for sale at a mastiff show in Baoding, Hebei province, south of Beijing on March 9, 2013. (Photo: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
Although it might bear some resemblance with its busy, mane-like coat, the Tibetan mastiff is decidedly not in the big cat family and, it should be pointed out, has more of a woof than roar.
But state media reported that Luohe zoo recently put this breed into the lion's cage, which was absent an actual lion.
In this photo taken Monday Aug. 12, 2013, a Tibetan mastiff looks out from a cage near a sign which reads "African lion" in Luohe zoo in Luohe in central China's Henan province. Reports say the zoo in the central China city of Luohe attempted to pass off a Tibetan mastiff as a lion. The large breed’s trademark mane gives it a lion-like appearance, but its vocalizations are far closer to a woof than a roar. (Photo: AP)
What's more, Beijing Youth Daily said Friday the zoo also had a dog in the wolf cage, foxes in the leopard enclosure and nutrias in the snake den.
Though the zoo said it wasn't trying to fool anyone, it issued an apology to the public and closed for "rectification," reported another newspaper, the Beijing News. It also planned to reorganize its public-private management structure, although the details were still being worked out, the newspaper said.
The Beijing Youth Daily quoted zoo manager Liu Suya as denying any attempt at deception, saying the lion had been lent out for breeding and would be back soon. The dog belonged to a friend of a zoo keeper who was on a business trip and needed a place to keep his pet while away, Liu said.
Liu said the leopard had also been lent out for breeding, while the snake and wolf were merely sheltering from the torrid summer heat. The substitute animals had been drafted because an empty cage would have "looked bad," Liu said.
"If visitors require an explanation, we'd be happy to give it to them," Liu said.
Another look at the lion-like dog breed. (Photo: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
Calls to the zoo rang unanswered. The facility, with more than 20 animals on display, sits inside the city's People's Park and is co-run by the municipal government and a private contractor.
The Beijing Youth Daily said it was informed of the odd situation by a zoo visitor who had been taking her son around the enclosures to teach him the sounds that various animals make.
"He said they were fooling us because the 'lion' was actually barking," the visitor was quoted as saying. "The sign clearly said African lion so I can only think that this was an attempt to fool the visitor."