“Pet” Hippo Mauls Farmer

On Saturday night, a South African farmer was killed by a five-and-a-half year old hippo that he had raised from a young age and considered a pet.

Forty-year-old Marius Els’s bloodied body was discovered submerged in the Vaal River which flows through his farm on the boundary between South Africa’s Free State and North West provinces. Els had been bitten several times by Humphrey, a hippo bull weighing some 1200 kilogram whom the part-time farmer and major in the South African Defence Force had raised from an early age after he was initially rescued as a calf during a flood.

Els had built a special earth dam to accommodate Humphrey and visited him every day to feed him apples and play with him in the water. Humphrey had allowed the farmer to climb on his back and ride him like a horse.

Like a son to him

While he acknowledged that Humphrey “could rip a man my size apart with no problem,” Els also believed that “Humphrey’s like a son to me, he’s just like a human.”

Els had been warned that Humphrey was a wild animal and should not be treated like a pet. Hippos are, in fact, known for their capacity to be rather aggressive towards humans and even though their considerable bulk makes them look very sluggish, they can move at surprising speed and their massive teeth and jaws present a huge danger to anyone. After the malaria-carrying mosquito, hippos are often regarded as the biggest killers of humans in Africa.

Humphrey had gotten into trouble repeatedly in the past. He is know to have broken out of his enclosure on Els’s farm repeatedly and even to chase golfers at a nearby golf course. Earlier this year, paramedics were called out to rescue a 52-year-old man and his 7-year-old grandson who spent two hours in a tree after being chased by Humphrey while canoeing in the river.

It’s unclear what will happen to Humphrey after this weekend’s deadly episode that killed Els.

Andreas is a book shop manager and freelance writer in Cape Town, South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath

Photo from: Stock.Xchng

Photo from: Stock.Xchng


Patrish Dehler
Patricia Dehler6 years ago

People never learn, and I have little sympathy if they die from the exotic pet, but it's always becomes the animals fault and they usually pay the price - death.

Terry V.
Terry V6 years ago

WILD animal, what are people thinking?

Rebecca Odle
Rebecca Noiseux7 years ago

We might like to think that we can raise anything but we don't have the knowledge to let it go when the time is right. Up to a certain point I would love to have these animals at my house nut also realize I don't have know how. Wild is wild no matter what age you got the animal at. Sad he lost his life

Carrie Anne Brown

sad news, but thanks for sharing

Dianne D.
Dianne D7 years ago

the farmer got want he deserved. If he had lived, I would hope he was prosecuted. I hope Humphrey wasn't destroyed.

K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Mark Jones
Mark Jones7 years ago

No, Hippo's don't eat meat, regardless of what you are told or seen. They do not have the teeth, eye structure or digestive system for it. He treated it like a pet and paid the price, so it goes. I had a Hippo in S.A too from a day old for 2 years before putting her back to the wild. She was never caged, and never aggressive to me, but then again I treated her as a Hippo, not a pet. The petition is useless, parrots are exotic pets too you know, how many have one? They're wild animals too you know. They are NOT domesticated animals. How many of you are having 'trouble' with your 'pet' parrot? Screaming, biting, plucking? Same thing really hey. It is extremely difficult to decide what should be kept and what shouldn't. I have kept snakes, lizards, ferrets, rats, insects, spiders...all have had (and still do) wonderful lives because I know what I am doing. I work with wildlife for a living, which makes a difference.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W7 years ago

Wouldn't a plush hippo be better?

HELENE D7 years ago

that hippo should be free in his native habitat, not a pet! now, what will happen to him??????

Jingli Z.
Jingli Z7 years ago

Poor man..