Marius Els And His Pet Hippopotamus
It’s easy to forget that hippos are some of the most dangerous animals on the planet, but they are naturally aggressive animals with incredibly sharp tusks that weigh over 3,000 pounds — and they pose as much of a threat on land as in the water, moving up to 30 miles per hour.
And while hippos are rarely seen outside of zoos in the United States, wild one are a fairly common sight in other parts of the world, especially in South Africa.
Still, that didn’t stop Marius Els from adopting a 5-month-old hippo that he named Humphrey back in 2005.
According to The Guardian Els brought Humphrey back to his 400-acre farm, where he also kept a giraffe and a rhinoceros, and raised him for six years, describing Humphrey as “like a son” and “just like a human.”
But over the years, people close to Els expressed concern over the hippo’s presence on the farm.
His wife, Louise, never felt comfortable with the animal nearby, and Humphrey had caused numerous problems before — he once chased a 52-year-old man and his 7-year-old grandson while they were canoeing, forcing them to hide in a tree for two hours to escape.
Humphrey was also responsible for killing calves that belonged to Els’ business partner and regularly broke out of his enclosure to chase golfers at a nearby club.
Despite this, Els described Humphrey as a “gentle giant.”
“It’s a little bit dangerous, but I trust him with my heart that he will not harm anybody,” Els said. “I can swim with him. I go in the water. He allows me to get on his back, and I ride him like a horse. He swims with me.”
As Sky News reported, though, it turned out Humphrey was anything but gentle.
In November 2011, Els’ body was discovered submerged in the river where Humphrey had first been rescued in a flood years earlier.
He had been bitten multiple times by Humphrey’s sharp, canine-like tusks and dragged into the water, leaving his body mutilated and savaged, left in the river for “an unknown period,” according to paramedics.
“There’s a relationship between me and Humphrey, and that’s what some people don’t understand,” Els once said. “They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats, and domestic animals.
“But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa.”