Puddles

The first of his kind to be exhibited at a West Coast Zoo, Puddles the river hippopotamus made a quite a splash upon his arrival at the San Diego Zoo!
  • 1930s
  • 1940s

From the day he went on exhibit at the Zoo in September of 1936, Puddles was a sensation. Named by the schoolchildren of his “hometown,” Chicago (he was born at the Brookfield Zoo), the young hippo was used to being beloved. Crowds came to admire him and his water antics at the San Diego Zoo. One of his favorite moves was to lie down on the ground, roll over on his back, and wave his stubby legs in the air, which never failed to win applause.

So it was with great jealousy that Puddles noted the arrival—and consequent popularity—of new animals near his exhibit, including camels and giraffes. The baby giraffes attracted so much attention, and drew the spotlight away from Puddles, that for quite some time the annoyed hippo “pouted” by staying submerged in his pool and refusing to greet his public. Director Belle Benchely even tried to coax him out of his funk by bringing special browse treats to feed him by hand, but he either refused to take them or ate them grudgingly and went back to sulking.

But after a while, he apparently got over his bruised ego and could once again be seen trotting over to the fence to acknowledge his fans—and beg for a treat or two from staff members, who liked to show the big fellow and his enormous mouth off to special guests.

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