Happy World Hippo Day! To celebrate, here are some of our favourite hippos on the internet, real and otherwise. You can read about them all and many more wonderful, strange, endlessly fascinating hippos in Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London by John Simons.
As well as telling the story of one hippopotamus, Simons considers how hippos and other "exotic" animals have been seen and treated in Europe through the centuries, and how this shifted during the Victorian era.
This fearsome hippo, drawn by Pierre Belon in 1553, is the first known illustration of a hippopotamus to have been published in France (image from Brigham Young University).
Knautschke was born in 1943 in the Berlin Zoo. His mother died during the bombing of Berlin, but Knautschke survived and after the war became one of the zoo’s most celebrated animals. He died in 1998 but lives on in this statue at the Freibad Werneersee swimming pool, now derelict. Image by Felipe Tofani.
London zookeeper Ernie Bowman feeds a young pygmy hippopotamus in 1923, from the Zoological Society of London. In Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London, John Simons explores the history of zoos and the experiences of the animals who've lived in them.
This statuette of Obaysch, made from Nile mud, was presented to Queen Victoria about five years after Obaysch arrived in London. Obaysch was captured in Egypt in 1849, when he was probably about a year old. He became the first “star” animal of the London Zoo, at a time when imperial expansion, commercial ambition, scientific exploration and changing ideas about animals were intersecting in complex ways. John Simons writes: “Obaysch is, quite simply, the most important animal of the Victorian era.” (Photo: Zoological Society of London)
There are several contenders for the collective noun for hippos. Whether you go for "bloat", "crash", "dale" or "thunder", we hope you have a very happy Hippo Day.
To find out more about Obaysch, visit our website.
This post first appeared on the SUP blog in February 2019. Keep an eye on our website for news of John Simons' next book, on fish in Victorian Britain.