This ancient bronze roaring lion was rediscovered in 1930 on the floor of a house in a desert village near Shibām, south Yemen. A visiting member of the ruling dynasty, Sultan Ali bin Saleh al Qu'aiti, presented the find to his travelling companion, Lieutenant-Colonel M.T. Boscawen. This was the beginning of Boscawen's passion for bronzes: he went on to develop a major collection, though most were later examples from the Renaissance and Baroque. In 1949 Boscawen lent the lion to the Fitzwilliam Museum, so that it could be enjoyed by a wider audience. In 1979 the loan was converted into a gift.
The lion is hollow-cast, and was originally one of a pair that flanked a monumental entrance. There are no other figures that resemble this closely, and its date is disputed - it was probably cast between 750 and 350 BC.