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Regent's Park hippo

Photographer: Don Juan Carlos, Count of Montizón (1822 - 87)

'The hippopotamus at the Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, London, 1852'

Obaysch, probably the first hippopotamus to be seen in England since prehistoric times, was obtained from the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt in 1849, in exchange for English greyhounds and deerhounds.

Visitor numbers to the zoo doubled after his arrival, and the photographic attraction of this exotic creature is not hard to understand. 

Don Juan Carlos, Count of Montizón, was the Carlist claimant to the throne of Spain from 1860 to 1868, and the Legitimist claimant to the throne of France from 1883 to 1887.

This year book for 1855, comprising contributions by members of the Photographic Society Club and supplemented with technical information, includes examples of the work of the most prominent amateur photographers active in the 1850s.

Salted paper print from a wet collodion negative

From The Photographic Album for the Year 1855 [London, 1855]

Jeremy Paxman comments:

‘I love this photo for the hilarious contrast between the indifference of the hippo and the fascination of the spectators. The hippo had almost certainly been photographed much more frequently than the human beings. 

Every schoolchild learns – or used to learn – of the wars and inventions of the Victorian age. In contrast to today, its great characteristic was self-confidence: there was not a problem which did not seem to have a solution. The same spirit ruled in science and discovery: it was an age in which the boundaries of knowledge grew and grew and the simple certainties of more credulous times shook to their foundations.’

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