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Huggy, Huggy Hippos

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I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
No crocodiles, or rhinoceroseses
I only like hippopotamuseses
And hippopotamuses like me too
Gayla Peevey, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"

Due to their soft, rounded appearance, sleepy-looking eyes, and big lips that hide their ferocious tusks, hippopotamuses are usually portrayed in media as cute and loveable Big Fun or Gentle Giants. Oftentimes, they will be Always Female, and depicted as a Big Beautiful Woman. Being noted herbivores helps this perception, too.

Often, they will also be used for humor. Because hippos are so rotund, they make for good Fat Comic Relief characters, and the fact that they usually live in lakes and rivers provides ample opportunity for an Underwater Fart Gag. It helps that "hippopotamus" is an Inherently Funny Word.

In real life, hippos are aggressively territorial - far more so than any other herbivore and even notably more so than many carnivores - and one of the most dangerous animals on the planet. They kill more people in Africa than any other large animal, and are capable of biting a crocodile in half. Basically, if you make one angry, you are dead before you even start running. But since hippos are so cute and dopey-looking, this is rarely acknowledged in Fictionland.

See also Genial Giraffe, Honorable Elephant, Silly Simian, Playful Otter, and (despite living in a different habitat), Warm-Hearted Walrus. Not to be confused with Hungry Hungry Hippos, which if anything are slightly more accurate than this actual trope (even if the game relies on this very trope itself, to an extent). Contrast Angry, Angry Hippos, which is much closer to realistic hippo behaviour (even though cute hippos can still be evil, or at least dangerous).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kabae from Aggretsuko is a cheerful pink hippopotamus who loves to chatter and spread gossip, along with being a very good mother towards her children.
  • In Killing Bites, Ichinosuke is a rather pleasant and honorable guy in a World of Jerkass who would rather prevent unecessary killing in what's a blood sport despite being able to transform into a threatening hippo beastman. He appears ineffective against other beastmen such as Tiger and Pangolin, but when his boss gives him permission to fight at full strength he starts actively trying to run over opponents and crush them in his massive jaws.
  • Yuya Sakaki from Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has Performapal Hip Hippo, Flip Hippo, and the spell card Hippo Carnival, which summon candy-colored hippos in various eccentric stage costumes. And those are just the ones that we have in the TCG.
  • Zatch Bell!: Folgore used to behave as a rebelious lion in his youth and beat down anyone who crossed him until he got disowned by his family at gunpoint. Torn with regret, he is inspired by a picture of birds resting on the teeth of a hippo to become a friendly pop star who children can look up to. Folgore imparts this way of thinking to Kanchome to prevent the young duck-boy from being corrupted by his newfound overwhelming powers.
    "I forgot to tell you that night... The hippo is strong... Especially when it is protecting its children!! It can even defeat a lion!! I have always been a hippo. Did you really think I was uncool?"
  • In Kemono Friends, the Moe Anthropomorphism of the hippo is a calm, genial Yamato Nadeshiko and Team Mom rather than an aggressive Alpha Bitch.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 
  • Tillie from Cats Don't Dance is a hyperactive and optimistic hippo who supports Danny's dream to be a movie star.
  • The "Dance of the Hours" segment from Fantasia features Hyacinth Hippo, a graceful ballerina in spite of her weight. All the gators want to dance with her.
  • Hugo the Hippo is a movie about a baby hippo who is the only survivor of his herd after they were brought to the land of Zanzibar to deal with a shark infestation, only to be ignored after they had done their job, and then exterminated when they tore the kingdom apart trying to find food. Hugo is clearly a sympathetic figure, on top of being cute and amiable. The movie also features a song, "I Love the Hippo", about how adorable hippos are despite their unaesthetic looks.
  • Gloria from the Madagascar series acts as a good-hearted and protective Team Mom to the rest of the Zoosters.
  • Aunt Hippo in Mother for a Little Mammoth is a kind and wise lady who convinces the initially hesitant elephant to adopt the orphaned baby mammoth.
  • The hippos in Tarzan are shown to be rather friendly. One even lets Tarzan ride on its back at one point.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The titular Okja is a genetically-modified "superpig" who resembles a gigantic hippopotamus in appearance, and is very sweet and playful.

  • In Richard Scarry's Busytown book series, Hilda Hippo is a big, clumsy but friendly girl who is a close friend of Huckle Cat.
  • Numerous works by Sandra Boynton feature cute and friendly hippos prominently. Notable examples include the children's book "But Not the Hippopotamus", in which a shy hippo wistfully observes other people enjoying company before being invited to join in, and chocolate-adoring hippos as the characters in most of the illustrations in "Chocolate: The Consuming Passion".
  • In Sergey Kozlov's children's poem The Sick Little Hippo, there is an entire family of adorable, cheerful hippos, whose only kid, as the title implies, is terribly sick. The hippo family is so beloved by their neighbors that basically the entire African fauna (up to and including sharks) is on the lookout for the cure.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Moon Knight (2022) brought in the Egyptian goddess Tawaret (see the Mythology folder below), a friendly hippo-woman with a high-pitched voice and whose struggles serving as a Psychopomp (a rule usually taken by another deity, Anubis) are positively Adorkable.
  • NCIS: A variation of this with a hippo plushy that belongs to Abby. When hugged, he makes a fart noise.

  • The Christmas novelty song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas", originally written by John Rox and performed by Gayla Peevey, features a little girl singing about, well... wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas, and imagining it becoming her new friend.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Tawaret from Egyptian Mythology. As a household deity, she was worshipped throughout Ancient Egypt, and was seen as a patron of childbirth and rearing. In some retellings of the Horus myth, she and Bes, the patron of children, brought up Horus while he was hidden from his evil uncle, Set. It should be noted that Tawaret's origins crisscross this with Angry, Angry Hippos. The Egyptians rightfully feared the hippopotamuses, but also regarded them as animals of wonder. Tawaret's name, which means "the Great One", is theorized to be a pacificatory way to appease dangerous deities, much like how fairies of days old were called "The Fair Folk".

    Puppet Shows 
  • Subverted in the Dinosaurs episode, "Georgie Must Die!" with the character of Georgie the Hippo. On camera, Georgie acts like a friendly and playful Manchild who loves to make children happy, not unlike Barney the Dinosaur, but off-camera, he is really a Manipulative Bastard who only uses children's smiles for his own profits to make money and avoid taxes, and doesn't take kindly to impersonators. Earl ends up exposing Georgie's true colors by disguising himself as Georgie in a homemade costume and getting into a scuffle with the real Georgie during the filming of an episode of his show.

  • Kinder chocolate eggs had many toy animal mascots throughout the years, but the most popular one were the Happy Hippos, who are a gang of cute little hippopotamus babies, who even got their own music albums, puzzles and video games.

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Captain Blubber is a captain of The Salty Hippo, and he is unlucky, but friendly hippo who generously rewards Banjo and Kazooie after they help him find his treasure in the first game, and in Banjo-Tooie, he runs a (fairly unsuccessful) shop where he sells useful items to the duo that can help them find more collectibles they need.
  • In Jump Start Music, there is a Simon Says Minigame with a friendly hippo who pats her belly to make a simple beat. The player presses the spacebar to make the same beat.
  • Pokémon: Unlike its short-tempered evolution Hippowdon, the Ground-typed Hippopotas is a small, cute hippo with the happy temperament to match (at least in the anime). The exception is Pokémon Legends: Arceus, in which they will attack the player unprovoked, just like Hippowdon.
  • Murray from the Sly Cooper series is one of the nicest members of the cast, even with his normal Large Ham, Boisterous Bruiser attitude. He is firmly loyal to his friends and often feels bad if things go wrong, even if there was nothing he could have done to stop it.
  • Viva Pińata: The Chippopotamus is a friendly pinata who will happily move into your garden if it meets the requirements. It shows no signs of hostility unless it shares a garden with a Pigxie. That being said, as it is a big pinata, it has a chance of unknowingly trampling over your smaller pinatas.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Pinkfong song "Happy Hippo", the titular hippopotamus is shown to be gentle and ecstatic about his new wings.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs: Flavio and Marita, the Hip-Hippos, who are both very friendly if unaware of just how destructive they can be. Aside from the one time someone was dumb enough to insult Marita.
  • Tasha from The Backyardigans is bossy at times, but she's mostly well-meaning and she learns her lesson. She's just as imaginative as the other kids.
  • Subverted in BoJack Horseman with the late-night television host hippo, Hank Hippopopalous. His public persona is very friendly and charismatic, but behind closed doors he's a serial abuser who uses his lovable reputation to get away with harassing his assistants.
  • Centaurworld: Waterbaby the hippo centaur shaman is one of the good guys, though she does have a mischievous streak.
  • The Critic: In "A Little Deb Will Do Ya", Jay is annoyed by Humphrey the Hippo, a lovable Barney Expy that is beating his show in the ratings. When he confronts Humphrey at a meet-and-greet (where he's even promoting his single called "Hug Da Police") and trashes him and the show, the various children there defend the hippos honor by giving him chase.
  • Hallie the Hippo in Doc McStuffins is Doc's right hand (wo)man, and assists her with just about all her patients. She is almost always happy and in good spirits.
  • George and Martha stars the titular Funny Animals, a pair of hippos who live together as Platonic Life-Partners.
  • Horrid Henry features a Show Within a Show called "Happy Hippos" which features hippos that are portrayed as being happy and friendly.
  • The Lion Guard: Beshte, the strongest animal in the Pride Lands, is basically Big Fun personified: Amiable, kind-hearted, diplomatic, and understanding.
  • Peter Potamus: One of Hanna-Barbera's stars, the purple hippo was friendly if a bit of a Know-Nothing Know-It-All.
  • Pat from Pat & Stan is cheerful and playful, though he can be a Drama Queen.
  • Tibor the Hippo from Pikwik Pack is kind and reliable, if a bit shy at times.
  • Subverted with a recurring hippo character in Rocko's Modern Life (voiced by Charlie Adler) that Rocko runs afoul of a couple times.
  • Molly from 64 Zoo Lane is a hippo from the titular zoo who is friendly and perfectly willing to tell Lucy bedtime stories.
  • Airplane Jane, big example of these from TaleSpin, and being a female Baloo gives her bonus points.
  • Hippo from Tinga Tinga Tales is quite sweet to her friends and never attacks anyone.
  • The Wuzzles: One of the main characters is Hoppopotamus, a hippopotamus/rabbit hybrid. Even though she has her flaws, she's still overall a friendly and amusing person.
  • The Wild Thornberrys episode "Matadi or Bust" has Eliza trying to free a captured hippo that is secretly being transported by Kip and Biedermann. The hippo is both friendly and dopey. Averted in a later episode where hippos are portrayed as realistically aggressive and territorial, and not cute lazy animals (as Eliza's cousin erroneously thought).

    Real Life 
  • The pygmy hippopotamus is smaller and more docile than its more common cousin, and thus fits this stereotype better.
  • Despite the ferocity of wild hippos, some hippos raised by humans can be quite docile and tame, and even be kept around the house. That said, Do Not Try This at Home, since wild animals kept as pets can still be unpredictable and potentially dangerous.
  • An orphaned hippo calf named Owen arrived at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya and decided to befriend a giant tortoise named Mzee, possibly because Mzee's roundness and color reminded him of another hippo. Mzee resisted Owen's advances at first, but then he let Owen snuggle up to him and lick his face, and they would eat and sleep together and follow each other around. As Owen grew bigger, though, the sanctuary's staff worried that he might accidentally hurt Mzee, so they encouraged Owen to befriend a female hippo named Cleo and eventually moved him into an enclosure with her.
  • Fiona is a young hippo that was born prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo and has since become an international star. Named after Fiona from Shrek, she is known for her happy character and a penchant for posing for the camera. She also appears in a number of children's Edutainment picture books which depict her as a bubbly anthropomorphic preschooler hippo with a number of animal friends.
  • Jessica is a hippo who was born prematurely and, out of good luck, washed up in the land of a former game warden in South Africa. As a result, she imprinted onto him and his wife, and is docile towards humans, even allowing those not in her pod (that is, her family) to pet her and feed her. While she's free to leave and mate, she has refused, and always returns to the house after visiting with the wild hippos downstream (likely because she knows she's onto a good situation).


Hold Me Hippo

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