Greater one horned rhinoceros celebrations

by Ann Sylph on

Greater one horned rhinoceros celebrations - a baby rhinoceros has been born at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and we are also celebrating the winning photographs of the ZSL Animal Photography Prize.

This is one of the oldest photographs in ZSL Library, it is an amazingly clear photograph of Miss Bet in the summer of 1864. She was  ZSL’s second one horned rhinoceros, Rhinoceros unicornis.

Miss Bet, ZSL's second one horned rhinoceros, black and white photograph
Miss Bet, ZSL's second one horned rhinoceros, photographed by Frank Haes in 1864

Miss Bet was acquired on  5th July 1850 and she lived for more than 23 years at ZSL London Zoo, dying on 14th December 1873.

There are a further three photographs of Miss Bet in John Edwards book London Zoo from old photographs 1852-1914, 2nd ed,; London : John Edwards, 2012 ISBN 9780952709916

According to John’s book, the photographer Frank Haes (1832-1916), began taking photographs in the Zoo during the Summer of 1864 so Miss Bet was one of his first subjects. In a lecture he gave to the London Photographic Society on 3 January 1865 he described how it could take up to 20 minutes before getting an animal into a `favourable position’. Sometimes by the time the animal was ready, his wet plate would dry out and so no exposure could be made. Once exposed the plate had to be developed immediately.

Haes took about sixty images in 1864, some are fairly common while prints of others do not seem to have survived. He sold the images as stereoscopic cards  costing 1 shilling and sixpence each, he also sold them as glass magic lantern slides. ZSL Library has what appears to be a unique album of the larger images some of which are the same as the stereoscopic images. ZSL Library also has a portfolio of prints containing the same images.

Haes returned to the Zoo in 1865 and took more photographs then returned in 1866 to photograph Lecompte with a sealion. He varnished his negatives which then cracked and so few prints were made.

You can enjoy some stunning modern photography at exhibition  ZAPP Animal Photography Prize currently at ZSL London Zoo and which will then be moved to  ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Bali, the new baby one horned rhinoceros is a ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, more details at Keepers welcome baby rhino Bali.

A drawing of a young baby rhinoceros
Drawing of baby one horned rhinoceros by Rajman Singh in Brian Houghton Hodgson's Mammals Volume 2

We are featuring Brian Houghton Hodgson in many of the Artefacts as part of our Britain Nepal 200 celebrations and so we could not miss the opportunity to include this lovely drawing of a young one horned rhinoceros, which according to Hodgson was `born in the Durbar’s menagerie as elsewhere recorded by me’.  It was drawn by Rajman Singh and forms part of Volume 2 Mammals of the Hodgson manuscripts which is currently away for repair and conservation before it is digitised. This work is being funded by the Leche Trust and Mercers’ Company so expect the digitised version of the whole volume on our website in the New Year! Further details can be found here about  Brian Houghton Hodgson manuscripts

Find out more about ZSL Library at  and explore our collections further using our online catalogue

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