Hoover The <I>Talking</I> Seal

Hoover The Talking Seal

Cundys Harbor, Cumberland County, Maine, USA
Death 25 Jul 1985 (aged 13–14)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 25081724 · View Source
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From the Book
The Language of Children

Hoover, a harbor seal brought to the New England Aquarium in 1971, talked in a friendly, raspy voice with the As of New England. He pronounced his name "Hoovah," he said, "Come on ovah heah," and "Hello dere." He talked only when he wanted to, most often in the spring. The Aquarium kept records that documented Hoover's behavior following his arrival as a 4 month old pup. On November 12, 1978, seven years later, he said "Hoover" in his New England Dialect. Animal Trainers at the Aquarium were sure Hoover did not know what he was saying and could not figure out what function his talking served.

Then in 1984, George and Alice Swallow of Cundy's Harbor, Maine visited the Aquarium. The Swallows had taken care of Hoover, a very young seal, for almost four months after his mother was shot by a fisherman. They put him in their bathtub and when he refused a bottle, ground up mackeral in a food grinder and force fed him. After a day he began to eat like a vacuum cleaner so they called him Hoover.

He was a great pet. Neighborhood children liked to take him riding in the wheelbarrow. When he outgrew the bathtub, the Swallow's put Hoover in a freshwater pond behind their house. Mr. Swallow never tried to teach Hoover to talk or rewarded him with fish for any behavior he displayed, but, he said he had "Hollered" alot at Hoover, "Come over here!" "Get out a here!" Every evening when he got home, Mr. Swallow would get out of his car, hit his hand hard against the side and yell, "Hey Stupid". Hoover would climb out of the pond and waddle up to Mr. Swallow, who would say, "Hello There" One day, Hoover made a noise that sounded like "Hello dere." A few days later Mr. Swallow said, "Some kids said my seal kept saying hello to them." After a while Mr. Swallow could ask Hoover his name and he would say "Hoover". The Swallows regretfully gave Hoover to the Aquarium because he had begun eating more fish than they could afford.

When the Swallows came to the Aquarium to visit Hoover, Mr. Swallow yelled, "Hey Stupid", and Hoover came over and took Mr. Swallow's hand and tried to pull him into the seal pool. Hoover sounded exactly like Mr. Swallow except when he said, "Hoover," he sounded more like the daughter of a neighbor who used to hang around the Swallows house and tell Hoover what his name was.


July 26, 1985, Friday, AM cycle

Hoover, the seal who endeared itself to millions of people by talking to them in a near-human voice, has died of unknown causes, New England Aquarium officials said.

The 200-pound, 14-year-old harbor seal died Thursday in his private pool.

Officials at the aquarium's Animal Health Care Center said an animal autopsy, known as a necropsy, was being conducted.

Hoover was a celebrity and known for his "guttural vocalizations," said Mimi Brown, an aquarium spokeswoman.

"His repertoire included 'hello there, get over here, Hoover' and a falsetto laugh,'' Brown said. "He mimicked human sounds, but developed this behavior on his own. It's very rare."

Hoover was brought to the aquarium from Maine by someone who picked him up as a pup and could not keep him, said Brown.

He has several offspring that live in the aquarium's popular outside seal pool.

Aquarium workers, who cared for Hoover over the years, said in a statement they are ''saddened by the loss.''

''For 13 years, Hoover has been our goodwill ambasador to the world. Regular visitors will surely miss his cheerful 'hello there' when they visit the aquarium,'' the statement said.

Hear Hoover Talk: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~wtsf/Hoover.html

Hoovers adoptive parents were George Henry Swallow, III and Alice Marguerette Dunning Swallow

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