Meet Jessica the hippo pet: a fascinating hippopotamus story

Portrait of Jessica the friendly hippo

Pets come in all shapes and sizes: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.

But a hippo?

Now that’s something quite extraordinary! The story of Jessica the hippo might make you fall head over heels in love with this large animal.

The images are truly fascinating, especially when you consider the animal’s reputation as one of the most dangerous wild creatures in Africa. It’s hard to believe when you see images of Jessica the hippo as a pet.

Jessica is certainly not your average hippo and has captured the hearts of many animal enthusiasts. The intriguing world of this hippopotamus is sure to leave you in awe.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the heartwarming story of Jessica.

Things to Know About Jessica: Hippo Facts & Quirky Traits

Whether you want to learn about common traits of a hippo, see Jessica photos, or you’re a fellow fan of rooibos tea, here are a few things to know about this remarkable creature.

Enjoy, and feel free to leave your feedback in the comments section. We’d love to know what you think of this outstanding story.

Jessica the pet hippopotamus: How it all began

Tourist feeding Jessica the hippo

The Jessica hippo story began in 2000 with a couple of true animal lovers, honorary game ranger Tonie and his wife, Shirley Joubert. They took it upon themselves to take care of a little hippo, Jessica.

Tonie found this lovable calf on the banks of the Blyde River shortly after she was born. She washed up near the farm with her umbilical cord still attached. This took place during the catastrophic floods which occurred in parts of South Africa and Mozambique in 2000.

With low chances of surviving in the wild, he welcomed the hippo into his home. Jessica was weak and could not feed on just cow’s milk.

So Tonie prepared a formula comprising cream, egg yolk, and full cream cow’s milk to nourish the calf.

Tonie met and married Shirley a few years after rescuing Jessica. Shirley fell in love with the adorable hippo (and Tonie), and Jessica took up a spot in their home and hearts.

They fed her bottles of milk, and she slept like a baby in a warm bed. She formed strong bonds with the couple and even became friends with the dogs in the household.

When it was time to wean Jessica, they tried a few different teas, but she only took a liking to one of them.

Do you know what Jessica’s favorite drink is?

She is head over heels for rooibos tea! In fact, her love for rooibos tea is one of her famous traits.

While Jessica became part of the family, she grew bigger, and her caregivers realized that it was time for her to return to the wild. So, they introduced her to the river.

Although she ventured out and mingled with her new hippo friends, she kept coming back to the Joubert family home.

What began as compassionate conservation led to a loving relationship that’s renowned across the globe, making Jessica a worldwide phenomenon.

She starred in National Geographic documentaries and appeared on SKY News, the Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet, to name a few.

She also played a role in a South African comedy film, Mr. Bones, with actor Leon Schuster.

Jessica the hippo: Appearance & personality

When the Joubert family found Jessica, she was tiny and tired, weighing only 16 kg. Today, she weighs around 1400 kg. She boasts a barrel-shaped torso, a nearly hairless body, and stubby legs.

Fun fact: While hippos have stocky bodies and short legs, they can easily outrun humans. If you want to learn more about river horses’ speed, check out this article on how fast hippos can run.

Jessica has an enormous mouth and teeth, but this gentle giant is unlikely to bite. She is free to roam around the farm and swim with the other hippos in the river.

When she returns home, she’s ready to show off her personality to guests. Jessica also loves listening to classical music, getting an aromatherapy body massage before bedtime, and nibbling on treats. 

Hippo Jessica: Diet

Jessica the hippo being fed

Although hippos are primarily herbivores, some have observed them engage in omnivorous behavior. Their diet typically includes grass, fruit, leaves, and aquatic plants.

What does Jessica the hippo enjoy feasting on? She maintains her figure by grazing on grass and eating vegetables.

Her favorite foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, and bread. She loves laying in the river while guests feed her treats from the top of a raft.

To wash down the delicious meal, Jessica gulps down some rooibos tea. She drinks about 20 liters of rooibos tea per day and prefers it warm with a bit of brown sugar.

The hippopotamus pet enjoys having it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a sip before bedtime for a good night’s rest.

Is Jessica, the pet hippo, still alive?

Yes. As of March 2023, the 23-year-old Jessica the hippo is alive and lives in Hoedspruit, South Africa.

You may come across news of ‘Jessica the hippo has a baby on the way’, but sadly her calf passed away on the same night as her loving caretaker, Shirley. Tonie found the two-day-old calf downstream, weighing only 12 kg. Shirley passed peacefully in her sleep in March 2023.

Shirley thought of Jessica as her own daughter. She swam with her in the river and gave her soothing massages at night.

When she passed, Jessica snorted and bumped into the door, and Tonie suspected that she knew his wife was no longer with them.

While Shirley has departed this life, she leaves behind a beautiful, heartwarming trail of memories.

Can I visit Jessica the hippo?

Jessica the hippo drinking rooibos tea, being fed by Tonie

You can meet the pet hippo Jessica at her riverside home in Hoedspruit. She roams around freely but regularly returns for meals and interaction with visitors.

During your visit, you can get up close and personal with this mesmerizing creature. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also touch and feed her.

The entrance fee is around R150 ($8) per person, R50 ($3) for children aged between 6-12 years, and little ones under six can enter free of charge.

Enjoy a Cup of Rooibos Tea With Jessica the Hippopotamus

Jessica the hippo is a one-of-a-kind animal that melts the hearts of animal lovers worldwide. This African animal is a true gem with a journey nothing short of amazing, from the uplifting story of rescue to her unexpected love of rooibos tea.

If you’re heading on a safari or trip to South Africa, why not make your way to visit this adorable hippo?

Whether you pay her a visit or simply read about her incredible story, Jessica is sure to make an impression on your heart.

So spread the word about this remarkable animal, and if you want to learn more about hippos, check out these articles on hippo sounds and facts about pygmy hippos.

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