‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’ singer finally gets her hippo – 60 years later

A pygmy hippopotamus is different than the common hippo in several ways, the San Diego Zoo says. Michael Fairchild/Getty Images

Oklahoma City native Gayla Peevey has welcomed another hippopotamus to the city’s zoo, more than 60 years after her song about wanting one for Christmas helped the facility purchase its first.

The singer was on hand as the 26-year-old pygmy hippopotamus Francesca made her first Oklahoma public appearance since moving from the San Diego Zoo.

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In 1953, the then 10-year-old Peevey sang the novelty hit, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, which debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Chicago Tribune reports. It led to a statewide fund drive in which children donated dimes to purchase and bring a pachyderm to the zoo.

The drive was able to collect $3,000 and then in December 1953, Peevey – now 74 years old – received Mathilda, a 700-lbs. Nile hippo on Christmas Eve. It was then donated to the Oklahoma City Zoo where it lived to be nearly 50 years old, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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Francesca joins 43-year-old Wolee in the zoo’s pachyderm exhibit.

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Pygmy hippos are listed as endangered, with fewer than 3,000 remaining in the wild.

According to the San Diego Zoo, pygmy hippos look like a miniature version of their larger relatives, the common hippopotamus, but differs in behaviour and some physical characteristics.

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The pygmy hippo is less aquatic than the common hippo. Its head is more round and narrow, its neck longer and its eyes are not on top of its head.

Not much is known about the pygmy hippo’s behaviour in the wild, but they are often found in pairs or on their own. Unlike their bigger counterparts, the pygmy hippo is shy and would rather run than fight.

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The only known natural predator to these hippos are leopards.

– With files from the Associated Press

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