“...lions have never lived here - the animal seen by Sang Nila Utama was most likely a Malayan Tiger.
One of the most popular stories in Singapore's history is the tale of how it earned the nickname of The Lion City.
In 1299 there was a Prince named Sang Nila Utama. He was the emperor of the Srivijayan Empire, which included Malaysia, Singapore and all of Sumatra.
One day, he decided that his empire needed a new capital and set sail with a number of ships to visit the islands off the coast of Sumatra. After several days at sea, he stopped his fleet at an island for a hunting trip. While chasing a deer, he reached the top of a hill from where he had a good view across the sea. A white beach caught his attention. His chief minister told him that this was the island of Temasek (meaning “Sea Town” in Old Javanese).
On their way across the sea to visit this island, they were caught in a violent storm, and the ship began to take in water. To prevent it from sinking, the prince ordered his men to throw all the heavy things overboard. Lastly he threw in his heavy golden crown as a gift to his grandfather, the Lord of the Sea.
The sailing party survived and landed at the mouth of the present-day Singapore River. Inland, while hunting, he suddenly saw a strange animal with an orange body, black head and a white breast. It moved fast and quickly disappeared into the jungle. His chief minister told him that it probably was a lion. As the lion was considered a sign of good fortune, he took this as a good omen and decided to stay and build a new city in Temasek. He renamed the city “Singapura” – derived from the Malay words “Singa” for Lion and “Pura” for city.”