London Zoo, the Zoological Society’s collection in Regent’s Park, was opened to the public on 27 April 1828. In its first seven months the Zoo attracted over 30,000 visitors. Among many exotic animals were two elephants, called Jumbo and Alice. The world’s first reptile house opened there in 1843. The zoo was reasonably priced for all pockets, costing sixpence a head on Mondays and a shilling on other days. It was one of the growing number of public facilities in Britain that was shared equally between the working classes and the gentry.

This hippopotamus, called Obaysch, was gifted to Britain in 1850 by Abbas Pacsha, the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt, in exchange for some greyhounds and deerhounds. The first hippopotamus seen in Britain (at least since the prehistoric era), attendance at the London Zoological Gardens doubled from 170,000 to 340,000 in his first year there.