The People's Park Zoo in Luohe, Henan, made international headlines Thursday after Chinese newspapers reported the zoo was trying to disguise a dog as an African lion.
The "lion" was really a Tibetan mastiff. Visitors reportedly called the zoo's bluff when they heard the animal bark.
"The African lions will be back. They went to another zoo to breed," an administrator at the People's Park Zoo explained to the Oriental Daily.
Ticket buyers were outraged. "To use a dog to impersonate a lion is definitely an insult to tourists," a visitor named Sharon Liu toldreporters. "The zoo is absolutely cheating us."
Tibetan mastiffs are hugely popular in China, selling for as much as $750,000. Puppies are smuggled in from the Himalayan plateau, despite many veterinarians arguing that the huge dogs are "unsuitable" as household pets in the climate.