Europe's first female hippopotamus

by Ann Sylph on

Adhela or `Dil' arrived 160 years ago on 22 July 1854. She was the first living female hippopotamus in Europe since Roman times. The Viceroy of Egypt presented Adhela to ZSL London Zoo as a mate for Obaysch. Obaysch was the male hippopotamus who had arrived in 1850, causing a sensation -  `Victorian hippomania'.

Adhela (female hippopotamus) circa 1870, Obayasch can be seen in the background. Circa 1870 photographed by Frederick York
Adhela (female hippopotamus) circa 1870, Obaysch can be seen in the background. Photographed by Frederick York

Adhela inhabited the zoo for over twenty eight years, dying on 16 December 1882. She gave birth to a female calf, Guy Fawkes, on 5 November 1872. Guy Fawkes was successfully reared by Adhela and grew to be a much larger animal. There was some controversy about the name Guy Fawkes but she did retain it.

Guy Fawkes and the Giraffe House cat, circa 1895. Photographed by Gambier Bolton
Guy Fawkes and the Giraffe House cat, circa 1895. Photographed by Gambier Bolton

Further reading :

The ark in the park : the zoo in the nineteenth century  / Wilfrid Blunt, London : Hamish Hamilton, 1976.

London Zoo from old photographs 1852-1914 2nd ed / by John Edwards, London : Published by the author, 2012.

Victorian England's hippomania / by Nina J. Root in Natural History, 1993, Vol. 102, Part 2,  pp. 34-39

Wild animals in captivity ...3rd ed / by A.D. Bartlett, compiled and edited by Edward Bartlett, London: Chapman Hall, 1899.


Visit the hippopotamus at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and the new pygmy hippopotamus habitat at ZSL London Zoo!

See our Hippomania display in ZSL Library - through October until 5 November 2014

ZSL Library welcomes visitors - if you are a ZSL member please bring your membership card when visiting ZSL Library. If you are not a member of ZSL will need proof of address and photographic ID when you visit.

Use our online catalogue to find more detailed information about specific items in our holdings. It also contains links to relevant online resources:



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