I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas Are My Ears On Straight.jpg
Single by Gayla Peevey
B-side"Are My Ears on Straight?"
ReleasedNovember 11, 1953 (U.S.)
GenreChristmas, Novelty
LabelColumbia (no. 4-40106)
Songwriter(s)John Rox

"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" is a Christmas novelty song written by John Rox (1902–1957)[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] and performed by Gayla Peevey (10 years old at the time) in 1953. The song peaked at number 24 on Billboard magazine's pop chart in December 1953.[8]


Peevey was a child star who was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma before her family moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma, when she was five.[9] When released nationally by Columbia Records the song shot to the top of the charts, and the Oklahoma City Zoo acquired a baby hippo named Matilda.

Peevey was filmed performing the song on The Ed Sullivan Show in October 1953, airing on November 15, 1953. A video of this performance is available on her website.[10]

A popular legend holds that this 1953 hit had been recorded as a fundraiser to bring the city zoo a hippo; but in a 2007 radio interview with Detroit-based WNIC radio station, Peevey clarified that the song was not originally recorded as a fundraiser. Instead, a local promoter picked up on the popularity of the song and Peevey's local roots, and launched a campaign to present her with an actual hippopotamus on Christmas.

The campaign succeeded, and she was presented with an actual hippopotamus, which she donated to the city zoo. The hippopotamus lived for nearly 50 years.[11] Peevey, by this point 73 years old, was again present when the Oklahoma City Zoo acquired a rare pygmy hippopotamus in 2017.[12]

Gayla Peevey later recorded as Jamie Horton, scoring the Billboard Hot 100-charter "My Little Marine" in 1960.


The B-side of the original 78 featured the song "Are my Ears on Straight?"[13]

Other releases[edit]

It is a Dr. Demento Christmas staple, and is currently available on Dr. Demento's The Greatest Novelty Records of All Time Vol. 6: Christmas.

A version by Vicki Dale and the Peter Pan Orchestra was released in 1953.[14]

The Three Stooges also recorded a version in 1959.[15]

Bob Keeshan, as Captain Kangaroo, recorded a version of the song in the 1960s.[when?]

Captain & Tennille included a version on their 2007 album The Secret of Christmas, and it was released as a single the same year.

The American pop band Jonas Brothers covered the song live in 2007 at the Radio Disney Jingle Jam in Katy, Texas.

In the 2007 Sesame Street Christmas special "Elmo's Christmas Countdown", Big Bird sang a duet of the song with Anne Hathaway. However, in that version, they replaced hippopotamus with Snuffleupagus.

Country music singer Gretchen Wilson recorded a rendition in late 2009. It debuted at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts dated for January 2, 2010. It is included on her album Christmas in My Heart, released in 2013.

American recording artist LeAnn Rimes released her cover of the song as a digital single[16] for her EP, One Christmas: Chapter 1 (2014).[17]

In 2016, country music artist Kacey Musgraves recorded a version for her album A Very Kacey Christmas.

A version was also recorded by the British entertainer Terry Hall and his puppet Lenny The Lion.[citation needed]

Lake Street Dive recorded a version on Holidays Rule (Vol. 2) released on October 13, 2017 by Capitol Records, UMG Recordings.[18]


  1. ^ "Local Song Writer Dies", The Winterset Madisonian (Winterset, Iowa), August 14, 1957.
  2. ^ "Alice Pearce's Nuptials", The New York Times, May 23, 1948, p. 65.
  3. ^ "John R. Rox" [sic], The New York Times, August 6, 1957, p. 26.
  4. ^ "John J. Rox, Song Writer", The Washington Post, August 8, 1957, p. B-2.
  5. ^ "John Jefferson Rox" in Notable Names in the American Theatre. James T. White & Co., 1976. ISBN 0-88371-018-8.
  6. ^ Renewal registration RE0000084409, February 23, 1981, of "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas", by John Jefferson Rox, U.S. Copyright Office database on-line.
  7. ^ John J. Rox in: National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938–1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-89820-161-1.
  9. ^ "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas - The Official Site By Gayla Peevey - Gayla Peevey". www.iwantahippopotamusforchristmas.net.
  10. ^ "The Ed Sullivan Show". The official site by Gayla Peevey. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  11. ^ "The Breakfast Club" morning show. WNIC, Detroit, MI. December 19, 2007.
  12. ^ "'I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas' Singer Welcomes Hippo to Oklahoma City Zoo". Associated Press. December 12, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  13. ^ "Christmas Music Coundown: Day 9.5", The Portland Mercury. December 15, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  14. ^ Dale, Vicki; The Peter Pan Orchestra (1953). I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas (78 RPM record). Peter Pan Records. Recording at the Internet Archive.
  15. ^ "The Three Stooges – Records". Retrieved May 6, 2009.
  16. ^ "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas - Single by LeAnn Rimes". Apple Inc. Retrieved October 19, 2014 – via iTunes Store.
  17. ^ Conaway, Alanna (August 8, 2014). "LeAnn Rimes Has a New Album, a New Reality TV Show and a New Attitude (2014)". Country Weekly. American Media, Inc. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  18. ^ "Holiday Rules (Vol 2)". Track 11 I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas. Apple Inc. Retrieved October 28, 2017.

External links[edit]