The lion was an icon of bravery, strength and royalty for thousands of years in Africa, Europe, and even in Asia. It appeared prominently in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt as a symbol of kings and in Eastern Asia (where people had never actually seen real lions!) they were worshiped as protectors of humans from evil spirits. No wonder cane-makers loved to make lion walking canes!
From medieval times, the lion was used in heraldry throughout Europe. Although there are many variations of heraldic lions, there are several major positions of the lion: rampant (standing on hind legs), passant (walking), statant (standing on four legs), secant (sitting), and couchant (lying down). For example, the royal coat of arms of Scotland has a rampant lion, and the coat of arms in England has passant lions. These postures influenced somewhat the shapes of lions on the walking sticks.
A rampant lion, which is the most popular posture, is often found positioned at the top of the walking cane, just above the grip. Most often the lion holds a shield as many heraldic lions do. The scriptures are rather small and will not prevent you from gripping the scripture part while holding the cane. Many “real” antique lion walking sticks you find are made of wood, but one modern reproduction is made with a beautiful pewter scripture.
Another heraldic posture you may find is couchant. This position creates a T-shaped or L-shaped handle over the cane shaft which can be used to support body weight – which is unlike other gentlemen’s fashion canes. In fact, some of these are made for women, probably for this purpose. Since they are made to grip, the decoration on the handles are minimal and the handle surfaces are smooth. Again you find them made of wood, ivory, and even scrimshaw.
Other heraldic positions are not often found as scripture, but as a painted form on button-shaped walking cane heads. In fact, most of these represent coats-of-arms of various countries.
You can find two other types of lion walking sticks. One is a roundish lion head sitting on top of the cane. This lion often opens its mouth wide as if it were roaring. Some have glass eyes. (I personally prefer this type of lion walking cane. It is easy to carry and still quite fashionable.) Another type is a lion head at the end of a crooked walking sticks. A silver or pewter scripted lion head is inserted at the end of the crooked handle. This is probably the most comfortable walking cane to carry. Since silver and pewter are fairly easy to manipulate, you will find this a very finely scripted lion-head walking sticks.
You may also want to take note of African-made hand-carved walking canes with a lion theme. They are really beautiful and have the warmth of fine rare woods that grow on the lands where real lions actually live. Even though many have contemporary designs (based on older African walking sticks), they are compatible in beauty to any of the antique lion walking canes made in Europe or the US, and worth owning as a gentleman’s fashion accessory.