The common hippopotamus, or hippo, is a large, mostly herbivorous, semiaquatic mammal and ungulate native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae, the other being the pygmy hippopotamus. The name comes from the ancient Greek for “river horse”.
Here are 12 fascinating facts about the hippopotamus.
- Despite residing in the water for a large portion of their lives, hippos can’t swim or float! They walk or stand on surfaces, like sandbanks, below the water. Hippopotamus go about their day in the water to protect their skin from the sun.
- They secrete an oily red substance that acts as a moisturizer, sunblock, and protects them from germs. Don’t let it fool you – some may suspect them to be sweating blood.
- They can put their breathing on auto mode! Although they can hold their breath up to seven minutes, most adult hippos resurface every three to five minutes for oxygen. Even sleeping hippo surface without waking.
- Hippos are able to close their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering.
- An open mouth can be misconstrued as a yawn, while it’s much more serious than that. This means they are marking their territory and warning you off. You can hear ‘honking’ and ‘grunting’ as well.
- A hippo’s life span is up to 40 years.
- The hippo’s closest relatives are whales and porpoises!
- Due to their big size, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal after the elephant and white rhinoceros.
- Hippos come out of the water at night for four to five hours to graze and can cover up to 10km in this time. They mainly feed on grass and they graze using their muscular lips!
- The hippopotamus is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, as it is highly territorial and aggressive. So you wouldn’t want to get between it and the water! They using their canine (sharp) teeth for fighting.
- These majestic mammals were once found throughout all sub-saharan Africa. However, populations have declined due to habitat loss and hunting. They are predominantly confined to protected areas in East African countries.
- Hippos live in groups (herds) of around ten to 20 individuals or even more, led by one dominant male.
Is the hippopotamus dangerous?
While hippopotamuses rest near each other in the water, grazing is a solitary activity and hippos are not territorial on land. The hippopotamus is among the most dangerous animals in the world as it is highly aggressive and unpredictable.
What does a hippopotamus eat?
Diet. Hippos graze on land; they do not eat while in the water and aren’t known to graze on aquatic plants. They prefer short, creeping grass and small green shoots and reeds.
Hippo Teeth Facts. The Hippos front Teeth (Incisors) can reach and incredible 1.2 feet in length. That’s not all the Canine Teeth can grow to a whopping 1.5 feet in length. … Hipposalso have the largest teeth of all land animals.
Hippo populations are threatened by hunting.
Hundreds of hippos are shot each year to minimize human-wildlife conflict, despite the fact that ditches or low fences easily deter them. It is more likely that the popularity of their meat is the reason for this strategy. Their fat and ivory tusks are also valuable to humans. At the beginning of the 21st century, the population of the common hippo declined more than 95 percent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In 2002, about 5.5 tons of hippo teeth were exported from Uganda, which equates to an estimated 2,000 individual animals. Hippos have been excluded from many of the strengthened ivory bans now spreading across the world making this vulnerable species at an increased risk from ivory poachers.
While the pygmy hippo is not generally a primary target for subsistence hunting, they are reported to be hunted opportunistically by bushmeat hunters.