Rube and Rubie

Personable and long-lived, Rube and Rubie were Zoo visitor favorites for more than 40 years.
  • 1940s
  • 1980s

Arriving in San Diego as a pair from the Calcutta Zoo in 1940, Rube and Rubie quickly became popular with visitors and staff. Over their 40-plus years at the Zoo, they produced 11 offspring together, and Rube sired an additional 17. Rube and Ruby had their first calf 1943, a “little” lady named Lotus, who became a big draw during the lean times of WWII.

One of Rube and Rubie’s favorite things was watermelons, and watching them enjoy the juicy fruits became a “must-see” among Zoo visitors. The pair would scoop up the whole melons and chomp down, popping the treat like human would a grape. Rube also impressed anyone within earshot with his vocalizations. Cued by a keeper mimicking the sound, Rube would open his mouth, lift his chin, and let loose with what sounded like a cross between a bellow and a snore. The sound reverberated throughout the canyon where the hippo pool stood. It caused more than a few people to cover their ears!

Hippos have an average life span of 25 to 30 years in the wild, but Rube’s 51 years made him one of the oldest hippos in zoos. The legacy of this beloved “power couple” lives on—today, the pair have been immortalized as two of the Zoo’s popular costumed characters!

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