Visitors to China’s Louhe city zoo were surprised to find a large, furry dog barking in the lion enclosure this week.

The king of the jungle had been replaced with a Tibetan mastiff, which, with its mane-like fur, is perhaps the canine that most closely resembles a lion.

"The zoo is absolutely trying to cheat us,” one visitor told the Beijing Youth Daily. “They are trying to disguise dogs as lions."

There was no official explanation for the change of exhibits, but one zookeeper said the lion had been sent away for breeding.

But the Tibetan mastiff wasn’t the only dog standing in for a missing animal. There was also a domestic dog in the wolf pen.

The zoo also had white foxes pacing in the leopard exhibit, and a pair of large rats were scuttling around a glass cage meant to hold several snakes.

Many Chinese zoos have struggled to be profitable in recent years, after a government ruling that animal shows should operate on a non-profit basis.

A private businessman has run the Louhe city zoo for several years at an annual rent of $17,000, according to The Telegraph.

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Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

Mommy, why does that lion look like our dog?
A Chinese zoo has a mastiff standing in for a lion, a domestic dog pretending to be a wolf and white foxes taking the place of leopards.