Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London
Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London
John Simons
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781743325865

Coming in January 2019

Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London is the story of Obaysch the hippopotamus, the first ‘star’ animal to be exhibited in the London Zoo.

In 1850, a baby hippopotamus arrived on English shores, allegedly the first in Europe since the Roman Empire, and almost certainly the first in Europe since prehistoric times. Captured near an island from which he took his name, Obaysch was donated by the viceroy of Egypt in exchange for greyhounds and deerhounds. His arrival was greeted with a wave of ‘Hippomania’, doubling the number of visitors to the zoo.

Uncovering the circumstances of Obaysch’s capture and exhibition, John Simons investigates the notion of a ‘star’ animal, as well as the cultural value that Obaysch, and the other hippos who joined him over the following few years, accumulated. This book also delves into the historical context of Obaysch and his audience, considering the relationship between Victorian attitudes to hippopotami and the expansion of the British Empire into sub-Saharan Africa.

About the author

Emeritus Professor John Simons is an historian specialising in the history of animals. He has written or edited twenty books, on topics ranging from Middle English chivalric romance to Andy Warhol to the history of cricket. His previous books on animals include Animal Rights and the Politics of Literary Representation (2002), Rosetti?s Wombat (2008), The Tiger That Swallowed the Boy: Exotic Animals in Victorian England (2012) and Kangaroo (2012), which was listed for the Royal Society of Biology’s Book of the Year Award. He is a published poet and has just completed his first novel. He has worked in universities on every continent except Antarctica and most recently was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at Macquarie University in Sydney.

Animal Publics Series

Check out our Animal Publics series page for other interesting titles in this field.