Animal Values: Remember Huberta the Hippo or Socks the Cat?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Animal Values

We close this week with two real-life animals who unexpectedly became public figures.


Cover Hubert the traveling hippopotamus (1)

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

“Hubert was different from the other hippos in one important way: He was not willing to stay near the river and spend his whole life in one neighborhood, as hippos generally do. Instead, in the fall of 1928, he left home and set out on a long, long journey.”

So begins the delightful children’s book by Edmund Lindop that you may find in your local library or perhaps in a used-book store. Wikipedia has the famous hippo listed as Huberta, because initial media reports in the 1920s made a mistake about the gender of this wandering hippo.

Despite some surprises, fits and starts—Huberta seems to have united people from many different communities during a 1,000-mile, more-than-two-year journey. The children’s book ends on a cheery note.

In truth, Huberta’s life ended tragically. She was protected—but hunters nevertheless killed her. As a result, there was a public outcry against the hunters—one of the first big anti-hunting outcries in Africa.

“It’s interesting that this story happened nearly 100 years ago,” says Bernard Unti, the Humane Society of the United States’s Senior Policy Advisor. “It’s still such an important issue. When President Obama was in Kenya, he talked about this issue of animal protection. There’s still a tremendous illicit trade in wildlife parts. In the case of ivory sales, for example, there still are groups like the antiques industry seeking exemptions on the continued sale—and these exemptions can become gaping loopholes through which nefarious characters can bring wildlife parts to market. We’re in a moment of tremendous peril for large animals. I’m glad you’ve brought up Huberta’s story.”


Socks the Cat is a far more familiar figure in the U.S.

She was the most famous pet during the Clinton presidency—even greeting children at the kids’ version of the White House website.

“Sure, I remember Socks,” says Reasa Currier, an interfaith activist with HSUS. “There’s something extremely humanizing and disarming when you realize that presidents have pets, too. What a connection! Two thirds of Americans have pets. Nine out of 10 Americans who live with pets believe their pets are family members. It’s an experience we share.”

Do you remember Socks the Cat? Have you heard of Hubert(a) the Hippo before today? What animals draw people together today? (Look at yesterday’s post for news about Cecil the Lion.)

What’s your favorite pet story?


There’s so much to think about, this week! Millions of Americans are talking about pets with the release of Dr. Seuss’s newest book, What Pet Should I Get? We encourage you to share these columns with friends to spark discussion.

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