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Love captures wandering hippo

Love captures wandering hippo

March 27, 1967: Herman, a wandering hippopotamus, obediently leaves a Laguna Beach rancher’s pond under encouragement of his elephant friend Lisa, and the rancher’s dog, Challenger.

The next morning, staff writer Dave Larsen reported in the Times:

His lost weekend over, Herman came staggering back to the little woman Monday. He was none the worse for his binge, except for a big head.

But then, being a hippopotamus, Herman always has had a big head.

The 1,600-pound hippo had been missing since Friday night, when he wandered away from a beachfront cage in Huntington Beach, where he was participating in a benefit carnival.

Fifteen miles to the south is the Thoroughbred Sea Spa, a health resort for race horses.

At about 5:30 a.m. Monday, the owner of the Laguna Beach ranch, Bryon Hendricks, let his dog out for some morning exercise. Minutes later the animal, whose name is Challenger, came charging back in, barking as if he had seen a burglar.

In a way he had. Outside Hendricks’ trailer, munching on a bale of hay, stood Herman.

The 4-year-old hippo took one look at Hendricks and made a beeline, or whatever, for a circular shaped saltwater pool which the horses generally use.

His owner, Gene Holter, was summoned from Huntington Beach.

While waiting for Herman to surface, Holter speculated that his animal had probably used the Pacific Ocean to make most of the trip.

“He can swim like a fish,” Holter said. “But I was worried that a shark might attack him.”

Holter’s plan was to rope the beast. Herman, however, remained submerged most of the time in the 9 feet of water.

At about 9 a.m., on the hippothesis that love conquers all, Lisa was led into action. Lisa happens to be a four-year-old elephant. She also happens to be Herman’s best friend.

Holter acquired them both as babies, Herman from Africa, Lisa from India. “I had only one heated stall, so I put them in together,” he said. “They have been inseparable ever since.”

The owner felt the hippo would come out of the pool voluntarily once he saw or heard his one and only. Lisa walked to the edge of the water.

“Speak, Lisa!” she was implored. “Come on, Lisa, speak!”

The elephant gave Holter a jaundiced glare and managed a trumpet.

Herman remained submerged.

Three times Lisa was goaded into the chilly water. Three times she set speed records in getting out.

But just when everyone was despairing, up popped Herman’s head. Upon sighting it, Lisa needed no encouragement to plunge into the pool.

As the crowd of onlookers cheered, the two animals frolicked in the water–a gargantuan love-in.

Without any urging from Holter, the elephant came plodding out of the pool. The hippo obediently followed.

In tandem they marched toward Holter’s van, mounted a ramp and disappeared inside. Herman had a little explaining to do.

The two photo combo above, by staff photographer Frank Q. Brown, accompanied Larsen’s story in the March 28, 1967 Los Angeles Times.

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