In 1515 Leonardo Da Vinci, artist and engineer, invented a mechanical lion that was given as a gift to Francois I, then King of France. The original was lost, but a new model has been crafted in Amboise, France by Renato Boaretto.
Providing a window into the past,the new robotic lion is based on drawings and plans for other Da Vinci mechanics, since no sketches exist of the lion that entertained the king. The model is life-size. When wound by hand the lion is able to walk, open its mouth, move its tail, and shake its head.
By the 16th Century—when Da Vinci crafted his lion—the lion had been extinct in Europe for nearly one-thousand five hundred years, though it once roamed the Mediterranean, even including southern France. However, during the Renaissance the lion still survived in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
Today, lions survive mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, but are rapidly declining for reasons not fully understood by biologists. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
The lion was chosen by Da Vinci because it was the symbol of the French monarchy.
Video of the lion, courtesy of Reuters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNWE2AdfNuo
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