Sir Winslow took many trips to the continent of Africa to explore jungles, deserts, and the open savannahs. On each of these, he discovered animals that he had never seen before or even heard of. However not so with the hippo. There had been one in the London Zoo since 1850, the family had seen it several times and decided they wanted one for the zoo at Windy Willows. The hippo was found on one of his last safaris in the country of Zambia. The story of the hippo that belonged to the Smythe family really begins once it was safely back in England.
Knowing that a hippo needs access to a large pool of water plus a grassy area, a place was started even before the trip to Zambia began. Sir Winslow was a strong believer that the animals should have a place that resembled their native land as close as he could manage. With the help of his boys and some of the gardeners, they dug out a spot for the pool and lined it with rocks. The grass would have to be something that would grow well in England but also be compatible with the diet of the hippo. It turned out that hippos are not picky, but do need lots of food! Including things that they could grow in the garden.
Choosing a name for the hippo was something the entire family got in on. Many names were thrown in the hat. Henry the Hippo? Henrietta? How about Hercules? Finally, the youngest child suggested Harper and insisted that her father find a female hippo so they could have baby hippos. Sir Winslow, of course, had to fulfill this request.
When Harper arrived at the zoo, she happily settled into her lagoon with a newly arrived baby. Several years later, Sir Winslow added a male that he purchased from another zoo in England and so Sir Winslow’s Zoo had a nice hippo family residing there for many years.
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