Introducing The Armley Hippo

28 June 2018

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It may seem hard to believe today, but the area close to where the Armley Gyratory now stands was once the home of hippos.

Around 130,000 years ago, a now extinct species of the huge mammal lived in what was, at that time, a much warmer Leeds.

The animals died out, but in 1851, workmen digging clay in a brick field unearthed a series of massive bones, which they quickly realised didn’t belong to any human or animal alive at the time.

armley hippo

The bones of the Armley Hippo are situated in Leeds CIty Museum

The workmen took their incredible find to Henry Denny, curator of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society Museum, who proclaimed them to be bones of the Great Northern Hippopotamus.

He then visited the site himself, uncovering more specimens including a number of bones and teeth which he later surmised belonged to three hippopotami, an elephant and an extinct species of wild ox known as an auroch

Later research confirmed the animals as Hippopotamusamphibius, Elephas primigenius and Bos primigenius.

The Armley hippo is commemorated in special heritage paving on Town Street.

After being dated using one of its teeth, the hippo was estimated to be from 130,000 to 117,000 years ago.

Now proudly on display at Leeds City Museum, the hippo is the most northerly specimen of its kind found in the UK.

Hippo skeletons are common, but usually only as partial remains, making the Leeds specimen very rare.


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