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November 5 2012

When wild beasts roamed the UK


The Victorian period witnessed a huge surge in the number of exotic beasts in the towns and cities of England - as creatures were imported from the far reaches of the British Empire. But Victorians' enthusiasms for wild and dangerous animals had some very unpleasant consequences, says Prof John Simons.

If you were born in rural England in 1837 and never travelled more than a few miles from your home, you would have been surprisingly likely to see a hippopotamus before you died.

The reign of Queen Victoria saw a surge in the construction of all manner of places where exotic animals could be viewed.

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