In the tragically familiar case of “domesticated” exotic animals turning on their owner, Humphrey the hippo has mauled his keeper to death. South African army major and farmer Marius Els, who kept the 2,600 lb. hippo as a pet on his farm, was killed after Humphrey reportedly dragged him into a river after mauling him. Els was found Saturday, bitten many times and then left in the water for an undetermined length of time.
It was an unexpected bout of violence for the pair, as Els treated the hippo “like a son.” He said, “There’s a relationship between me and Humphrey and that’s what some people don’t understand.”
The 40-year-old farmer raised Humphrey from the age of five months, after the young hippo was stranded during a flood. Currently six years old, the hippo lives in a specially-built dam on the farm. Els would often ride on Humphrey’s back and hand-feed him apples, despite the beast’s razor-like teeth. Hippos are notorious for being one of the most dangerous animals in the world, but Humphrey seemed to buck that trend.
Domesticated as he may have seemed, it’s clear Humphrey still had a wild side. After all, we’ve seen this story before: Remember the chimp that ripped a woman’s face off? Or how about the tiger that chomped the neck of Vegas entertainer Roy, Siegfried’s other half?
Indeed, Humphrey was blamed for killing calves on Els’ farm and occasionally escaped onto a nearby golf course. But Els took a playful attitude toward Humphrey’s exploits, explaining to the South African Press Association that the hippo just wanted to “brighten up his social life.”
Els is survived by his wife, as well as the giraffe and rhino he also kept on his farm.
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