From wobbly-kneed newborn to stately adult, Godfrey the white-bearded gnu taught Zoo visitors to respect the wildebeest.
  • 1940s
  • 1950s

In the 1940s, not many people outside of Africa had seen many gnus, also called wildebeest. So when people came to the Zoo, it was often their first encounter with the unique-looking antelope. What they may have read about the animals usually described them as odd in appearance, almost ugly. Godfrey changed that perception for many people.

Born on exhibit, Godfrey, like all wildebeest babies, was on his feet and walking less than 30 minutes after birth. And once he was up, he was off and running! At the time, ZOONOOZ reported that, “Almost from the day of his birth, he has displayed certain tendencies of racing blood, galloping from one end of the enclosure to the other.”

Godfrey quickly became a favorite among San Diegans who made frequent trips to the Zoo to watch him cavort. Although there is no film footage of him in action, it’s not hard to imagine the way he zipped and zoomed while his adoring public watched.

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