Despite repeated warnings that Africa's most dangerous animal could not be tamed, a South African farmer's refusal to give up his beloved pet has ended with tragic results, RadarOnline.com has learned.
Marius Els was found lying dead in the river running through his property after his pet hippo, Humphrey, mauled him in a brutal attack, reported the Guardian.
The 40-year-old had raised the mammoth animal since he was five months old and even used to sit on his exotic pet's back as they sloshed through the water.
"I call him and he immediately responds to come and play with me. I feed him apples. He opens his mouth. Big jaws, and teeth like this," said Els in a video that became a YouTube sensation earlier this year.
"It's a little bit dangerous but I can swim with him. I go in the water. He allows me to get on his back and I ride him like a horse."
The former army major boasted about the bond that he had developed with what is widely thought to be the most prolific killer on the continent.
"There's a relationship between me and Humphrey and that's what some people don't understand. They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals. But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa," he revealed.
Despite his devotion to his one-ton pet, Els' wife Louise had understandable misgivings about the animal and Humphrey had already gotten into trouble in the neighborhood.
Earlier this year, the "gentle giant" chased a 52-year-old man and his seven-year-old grandson up a tree as they were canoeing down a river on the farm. Els finally tempted the hippo away with an apple while the pair were rescued by paramedics.
Humphrey, five, is thought to be responsible for killing calves belonging to Els' business partner, and also frequently broke out of his enclosure and chased golfers at a local golf club, reported the Guardian.
Hippos are said to kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo and rhinos combined. They usually use their enormous canine teeth to maul their victims.
Watch Marius and Humphrey below: