Hippopotamus in Culture
Hippopotamus in Popular Culture
There are plenty of stories out there about the Hippo that continue to be part of our popular culture. Many of
them go back to the early Greeks as they were the ones to name Hippos. In their cave markings and early writings
you will find information about the Hippo. A great deal of this information is approximately 5,000 years old.
It is believed that the Hippo was a symbol in the Egyptian world. These animals lived along the Nile River.
There is an Egyptian goddess named Tawaret who is believed to be the protector of pregnant women and their infants.
The symbolism here is the fact that the Hippo will do anything – even kill – in order to protect her young.
There are plenty of noted early writings that cover the Hippo as well. One of the great Historians of Greek
history is Herodotus. In 440 BC he wrote about them in great detail in a book called The Histories. Around 77 AD a
Roman Historian known as Pliny the Elder wrote about them in an encyclopedia called Naturalis Historia.
Both the Greeks and the Romans viewed the Hippo as the beast of the Nile. There is plenty of writings about the
red Hippo. They believed this was a sacred symbol from the gods. Today we know that the red coloring is the result
of pigmentation. The body creates it in order to provide natural sunscreen.
Philip I brought along the use of the Hippos to fight Roman gladiators. This is one of the first documented
times in history when an exotic animal was used in such a battle. It isn’t fully known to what degree these animals
were controlled or used though. If you read different versions of stories from this period of time though you can
formulate your own opinion on the subject.
The famous drug cartel lord Pablo Escobar had four of them in Columbia during the 1980’s. It is believed that he
purchased them for an undisclosed amount from New Orleans in the United States.
Escobar often felt that he was untouchable and allowed his Hippos to freely roam the region. They quadrupled in
number and were responsible for the deaths of several people. It is also said that he fed people that had betrayed
him in the drug business to his pet Hippos. However, law enforcement was never able to substantiate those stories
as being true or not.
In the 1850’s, a song called the Hippopotamus Polka was very popular. For fun you may want to go online and see
if you can find the lyrics or an audio of it to enjoy! In fact, it was this very song that influenced Disney to go
with dancing Hippos in the classic Fantasia.
Another great song is I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas that was released in 1953. This was actually a very
big hit for a child star back in the day called Gayla Peevey. Of course the one scenario of Hippos that children
and adults love is the game called Hungry, Hungry Hippos. The object of the game is to press the lever for your
Hippo. As you do so you want to eat as many of the white balls in the middle of the game board as you can.
Once those white balls are all consumed, each player gets to count how many they have. The one with the most of
them is the winner. It is a game of moving fast and having fun. It is recommended for children over five though due
to the risk of younger children choking on the white balls.