-The group couldn't resist rolling in the dirt on first trip out
-First-time mothers Nikata and Louisa seemed unimpressed
-Four males and four females born at Longleat Safari park in August
By Steve Robson
After finally being let out to play for the first time, these impatient lion cubs couldn't wait to get rolling around the dirt with a playful game of stuck in the mud.
The eight cubs - four males and four females - were born in August but they had not been allowed to join the rest of the pride at Longleat Safari and Adventure Park in Wiltshire until now.
The pouring rain didn't deter them from enjoying themselves and in fact made playing in the leaves and dirt all the more fun under the disapproving gaze of mothers Nikata and Louise.
Keepers say both the first-time mothers have been very attentive to their offspring, although they are less patient when it comes to humans.
'Nikata and Louisa don't seem to have any problem joining in the rough and tumble games with their cubs,' said keeper Bob Trollope.
'However, they are extremely protective and are nowhere near as accommodating with us.'
Within minutes of being released, the cubs were covered in mud and leaves and were taking it in turns to try to balance their way along a slippery fallen tree trunk.
Several of the braver individuals even began perfecting their ambush skills on their mother, although they were rather more cautious when father Hugo came over to say hello.
'Both mums have four cubs, with two of each sex, and Hugo is also a first-time father. However, he is considerably less interested in the youngsters and soon went back to what male lions do best - sleeping,' said Mr Trollope.
Longleat is famed for its lions, which are kept in two separate prides, but this is the first time the 'woodland' pride has had cubs.
At birth, the cubs weighed just 2lb but now tip the scales at 18lb.
Male lions usually reach their full size by the age of two, while females will be about three years old before they are fully grown.
Adult lions can weigh up to 440lb and grow to lengths in excess of 10ft.