Honiton hippo proves huge hit with youngsters

Just some of the ancient remains on show at Honiton's Allhallows Museum

Just some of the ancient remains on show at Honiton's Allhallows Museum - Credit: Margaret Lewis

Another favourite display in Allhallows Museum shows the Honiton hippo bones. 

Before reading the guidebook, a few adult visitors have assumed that there must have been a zoo or a circus here. 

Of course, the pupils of Honiton Primary School love this display because it includes a picture of their school mascot - Bones. 

One six-year-old told us that she loved ‘the part of the museum that had Bones’ skull because our school is literally all about bones’. 

Adam and Sam didn’t know that hippos ever grew in England. Charlotte’s favourite object was ‘the hippo bones because they are curvy and cute’. 

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Sean wrote that he ‘loved the hippo teeth because it proved that animals did exist in different places than they do today, and they just look absolutely awesome!’. 

Finding hippopotamus bones in the UK is extremely rare. A hippo bone was found under Trafalgar Square, some were found in Norfolk in 2014 and lots were discovered in Allenton, Derbyshire in 1895. 

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While the Honiton by-pass was being constructed during the 1960s many mammal bones were discovered. 

The excavated bone remains come from seventeen different hippos, an elephant, a giant ox, and red deer dating around 140 thousand years ago. During that time, the climate here was like it is in Africa today. 

During examination, the specialists established that the hippo bones either belonged to juvenile or elderly animals. It is thought that a natural disaster happened in the Otter valley and the weaker, young and old animals became trapped and died. 

Eventually in 1968 after years of discussion and the exchange of much correspondence the Ministry of Transport shared the bones between Allhallows Museum and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. 

One of the children’s activities in the museum is the hippo hunt - a hippo is hidden in every display case. Thousands of children of all ages enjoy it and when the museum is open there is rarely a day where we don’t hear the words, ‘I’ve found one!’. 

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