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Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London
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John Simons
Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London by John Simons at Abbey's Bookshop,

Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London

John Simons


Sydney University Press

Animal behaviour


230 pages

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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.

'Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London is a fine example of how an academic book can work for a general is over and above an accessible, intelligent, charming, sometimes funny, sometimes sad account of Obaysch.' - Stephen Romei, The Australian

By:   John Simons
Imprint:   Sydney University Press
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 210mm,  Width: 148mm, 
ISBN:   9781743325865
ISBN 10:   174332586X
Pages:   230
Publication Date:   January 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

'From its very first word this book drew me in, made me cry and elicited understanding and unease ... This thoughtful, meticulously researched book begs to be read by animal studies scholars and anyone concerned about the plight of species other than ourselves. --Carol Freeman, University of Tasmania, author of Paper Tiger: How Pictures Shaped the Thylacine 'John Simons is a skilful storyteller and Obaysch is a compelling read. Meticulously researched and generously illustrated, the book fulfils Simons' determination to treat Obaysch as an actor in his own life at the same time as exploring how this unfortunate hippo became the most important animal of the Victorian era . The result is fine addition to the Animal Publics series, and a significant contribution to the emerging field of animal biograph --Steve Baker, Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of Central Lancashire 'John Simons' richly exhaustive account of nineteenth-century hippomania engages with imperialism, Orientalism, progress, and the cultural history of Europe ... Poignant and empathetic, this account of an animal's appropriation and exploitation is one of those books that unfurls more about its moment in time than you could have imagined when you picked it up.' --Randy Malamud, Regents' Professor of English, Georgia State University, Atlanta, author of Reading Zoos: Representations of Animals and Captivity 'Simons' breadth of reference, his often witty commentary, and even his footnotes (what connection can there possibly be between the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar and hippopotamuses?) make fascinating reading.'--Helen Tiffin, University of Wollongong, author of Wild Man from Borneo: A Cultural History of the Orangutan

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