• Brandon Brown

Orange County Flashback- Bubbles The Hippo

Updated: Jan 23


As we know it now, Orange County isn't the same Orange County as when I was a kid. Lost are the many open areas to wander, ride bikes, drive more than a few minutes without lights or stop signs slowing you down. Found are what has filled those empty fields and lots, which have enabled thousands of people to come here to create memories that will last a lifetime.

As I reflect on my youth, I remembered Lion Country Safari, which was located just south of the 405 Freeway in Irvine, which is now known as the Los Olivos Village housing development. I posted on my Instagram account a trivia question about who remembered Lion Country Safari and a trivia question asking who remembers what animal escaped there and eluded capture for 19 days.

Well, here's the story. Bubbles the Hippo was housed at Lion Country Safari, which back then was a drive-thru zoo, which allowed visitors to see all kinds of exotic animals up close and personal. Unfortunately, Bubbles got frisky one night in 1978 and burrowed under her fence, escaping the park. She managed to find a drainage pit, made that her new home while eluding capture, and became news that even made it to the Johnny Carson show.

Ultimately, after 19 days of freedom, she left the drainage pit and made her way up a nearby hill, where a ranger approached her and shot her with two tranquilizer darts. Unfortunately, this harmed her, and she stopped breathing shortly after and was pronounced dead. There are conflicting stories of how she died; some blamed the tranquilizer, others the second round of a calming drug administered by a veterinarian at the site. Still, Lion Country Safari's official report was the fall resulting from the tranquilizer affected her lungs and thus suffocated her. A future autopsy also showed that she was five months pregnant. Her skull and bones can be found stored in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

So to all my new Irvine friends, especially in Irvine / Los Olivos Village, here's a good story to tell your kids someday while sitting by the fire eating s'mores.


Be sure to follow me on social media for more Orange County history pictures, trivia, housing market updates, and other real estate content.


BayBrook Realty is a brokerage located in Orange County, California. As a resident since 1977, and I've seen Orange County change and blossom into an amazing county. It's always fun to travel back in time and remember some of the sights of my youth. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Follow my social media for more posts on Real Estate, Orange County History, and other fun things that pop into my head. - Brandon Brown - Broker / Owner


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