- Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius
- Speed: 30 km/h (On the ground, Running)
- Average lifespan: 40 – 50 years
- Gestation period: 243 days
- Body Mass: Male: 1,500 – 1,800 kg (Mature), Female: 1,300 – 1,500 kg (Mature)
- Diet: Herbivorous
What will you learn in this article?
In this article, you will learn:
- What hippos are like: Characteristics (Physical description)
- What does the hippo eat?
- How do hippos mating?
- Where do hippos live?
- Who are the predators of hippos?
- Species of hippos
- Differences between Hippos and Rhinoceroses
- Is the hippo in danger of extinction?
- Curious facts about hippos
- Frequently asked questions about these animals
The hippo is a hazardous animal, and one of the largest in the world. This is one of the most corpulent, aggressive, and territorial wild forest species, mainly when found in water; for this reason, it is not a species that can live with a man as a pet or a domestic animal but must be free in its natural habitat.
The hippos have a very peculiar skin that protects it in various ways. Also, according to experts, male hippos continue to grow until they die.
Characteristics of the Hippo
The hippo is a wild animal that presents sexual dimorphism, as the male is larger than the female, and can reach from 1 to 3 tons, and can measure from 3 to 5.20 meters long in adulthood.
Its physical structure facilitates the recognition of its species, and it is considered, according to science, that the male hippo does not stop growing. In the case of the female hippopotamus, it grows to maturity of 25 years.
One characteristic that makes hippos stand out is their wide mouth, with thick, sturdy teeth. They use it to defend themselves against other hippos and predators that dare to threaten them or their offspring.
Their legs are sturdy and short, their eyes and ears are relatively small, if we compare them with the enormous size of their head.
How fast hippos can run
Although they are cumbersome because of their physical structure, they can move at much faster speeds than humans, both in the water and on land. Hippos have been timed at 30 km/h for short distances.
Here is a video that shows how hippos swim and how fast they can swim:
Herbivorous feeding method
Do hippos eat meat? No. These animals feed on plants; either those found near rivers or the grass that abounds in the dry land. It has a very peculiar characteristic since its stomach has three divisions; although it is not a ruminant animal, it does have this particular characteristic and consumes up to 70 kilos of herbs. They prefer to feed on dry land.
The hippopotamus is an animal that, despite its weight, can be in the water and move with great ease. For this reason, they can reproduce both in water and on dry land. Females can reproduce between 5 and 7 years of age, while males from 7 years.
Hippos can mate in any month of the year, and do so through sexual contact, by internal fertilization. They have a gestational period of 8 months, very similar to that of the human being. When they reach term, they give birth to one offspring, although there are exceptional cases in which two offspring are born, which the female gives birth viviparously.
Hippos are born in the water and also suckle (as they are mammalian animals) in the water or on dry land. For this reason, the baby, once born, must go to the surface on its own in order to breathe.
Next, you will see a hippopotamus mother giving birth to her calf:
The hippo is an animal that lives in the cold forests near freshwater lakes and rivers and where the humid climate predominates, in addition to abundant animal species and the vegetation that feeds on it.
It is an animal that prefers to be underwater during the day to protect itself from the sun, moisturize its skin and refresh itself with water or mud. It must do so, because its skin, as it does not have a thick coat, is easily irritated under extreme sun.
Takes advantage of cold nights to go out and be more active. It is an animal that, if it is in the water, is more wild and territorial, because within it belongs a part of the territory only for him and the females he chooses, which are usually about 10 when a male wants to invade their territory, attack to defend their place.
It is estimated that approximately 150,000 specimens live in Africa, and only small numbers live in other areas.
In Tanzania, there are between 15,000 and 30,000, in Zambia, about 40,000. Hippos living around Africa are found mainly in the Nile River region.
It is believed that the pygmy hippopotamus also lived in parts of Nigeria. Many years have passed since it was last seen in that particular region.
Hippos in zoos
They were first placed in this environment in London in 1850. They are one of the most expensive animals in captivity as they consume large amounts of food and require constant cleaning.
They seem to live very well in captivity since, in these places, they live with little stress.
Since hippos spend most of their time in the water, so do their predators, such as crocodiles and caimans. These reptiles mainly attack the hippos offspring. Rarely do they do so because they know the risks they run because hippos defend their young very well.
However, when they are on dry land, there are more dangers from predators, as there are hyenas, tigers, and lions. We must also mention that man is his greatest predator because he uses his meat for marketing it and selling it at very high prices. They also sell their ivory teeth at exorbitant prices because they are so coveted.
Today we have only two types of hippo: pygmy hippos and common hippos. Experts believe that at least three species are extinct.
The common hippo is a little larger than the pygmy hippopotamus. The creatures are found mainly around water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and mangroves. They prefer areas with shallow, slow waters where they can float all day. They have robust trunks and weigh between 1.5 and 3 tons. They have hairless skin that is gray or reddish-brown with pink areas on the face.
This type of hippos spends much time submerged in water. Their nostrils and eyes protrude above the head to allow them to breathe and see while partially submerged in water. They have wide mouths and long sharp canines that they use to repel rival predators and hippos.
Common hippos like to stay in herds of animals between 10 and 20. Large herds of up to 200 common hippos have been seen in some cases. The herds consist mainly of a dominant male hippo and ten female hippos along with their offspring. Male hippos often protect their territory in the water.
Pygmy Hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis)
The pygmy hippo shares many characteristics with the common hippopotamus. They have robust bodies, grey or brown, hairless skin, long, sharp canines, and nocturnal tendencies. However, pygmy hippos are slightly smaller compared to common hippos. An adult pygmy hippo weighs between 397 lbs and 606 lbs. The eyes and nostrils of pygmy hippos do not protrude from the head like those of common hippos.
These types of hippos live near forests and swampy areas. Unlike common hippos that spread throughout sub-Saharan African countries, pygmy hippos are only found in the tropical rainforests of West Africa. The creatures live a more solitary life and are found in pairs of mothers and offspring or reproductive pairs. Pygmy hippos graze on leaves in forests at night. Hippos’ breeding habits are unique because they reproduce both in water and on land.
Pygmy hippos are classified as endangered by conservationists. The main threat is deforestation leading to habitat loss. The other major threat is human predation. Currently, its population is estimated at less than 3,000 animals living in West Africa.
The hippo and the Rhino: What are their differences?
The hippos and the rhinos differ in numerous characteristics. However, the most distinctive feature of a hippopotamus is that its ears, eyes, and nostrils are present at the top of the head.
On the other hand, a rhinoceros has distinctive features such as thick, hard skin and the presence of one or two large horns.
The hippos is a semi-aquatic mammal, while the rhinos is a terrestrial mammal.
Conservation of the hippos
In 2006, studies showed that the number of these animals was reduced to 20% compared to 1996. This indicates that they are still being killed in large numbers for the illegal consumption of their meat and the illegal sale of their ivory teeth.
Since 1996, it has been on the list of vulnerable species. The elimination of poaching of this animal is complicated to eradicate. The fact that their teeth are ivory makes them vulnerable to human ambitions.
Some legislators thought they were doing something positive by banning these actions, but the result was increased demand for ivory and its value.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a high rate of destruction of hippos and their environment has been detected. It is estimated that only 5% of those who once lived there remain to this day. This is mainly due to the boom in poaching that poor people develop in order to survive.
Changes in the environment, including global warming, can make the lives of these animals even more difficult. Periods of drought, water, and food shortages affect the mating season.
In the conservation of these animals, many people work willing to donate their time and money to the cause. They want them to thrive in their natural habitat because they consider these animals essential to the balance of African wildlife.
You can also be a part of the hippos’ conservation efforts. A great way to help them is through the exchange of accurate information about them. Your combined efforts with those of others can have a profound effect on the future.
Hippo aggression: Why is it so aggressive?
The aggressive character of the hippo is not a myth but a reality. They are known as the most aggressive animal in the world. Even other dangerous animals such as crocodiles and alligators do not seek to confront them. The three often share the same water, but the hippo knows that he will not share that position without a fight.
The interesting thing is that hippos are not aggressive when it comes to land territory. They all walk freely in search of food, and this can change if they do not find enough food to survive. When there is a lack of water or food, then their aggressive nature excels, and only the strongest and most powerful will survive.
It is also often aggressive when it has a puppy in its care. In many areas, there are avid hunters such as hyenas and lions who find a delicious meal in baby hippos. However, if they are not at a considerable distance from their mother, the predators will not run the risk of their anger.
In Africa, these animals have been known to attack boats and people who are in the water. This is because they see humans as a threat to their environment. This type of protection is developed mainly by females with young. However, it should be noted that these animals are only doing what is instinctively programmed.
Many experts believe they have been able to survive millions of years thanks to their aggressive nature. Even with the title of being the most aggressive animal in the world, they have not lost the love of the people and are widely observed in zoos.
Curious facts about Hippos
- The skin of hippos generates a special and unique sunscreen, which some may confuse with blood. Their skin may turn red to brown, which in turn allows them to protect themselves from various bacteria.
- The fat that makes up the skin of hippos is what allows them to float and swim so easily, despite being so large and heavy.
- If their fangs break, they grow back. Also, they are more valued than elephant tusks. This is because they do not become yellowish over time.
- The open mouth of a hippo can be as long as a meter.
- Sometimes yawning as a threatening gesture. As they yawn they show their long, powerful canines from their lower jaw.
- Small birds remove insects from their skin.
- Hippos are more related to whales than to any other land animal.
- Hippo means “river horse” in Greek.
Frequently asked questions about hippos:
How long can they stay underwater?
Hippos can hold their breath and stay underwater for up to five minutes. To do this, they automatically close their ears and nostrils when submerged. Their enormous weight and size allow them to walk comfortably on the bottoms of rivers and lakes, better even than on land.
What is the name of a group of hippos?
To refer to a group of hippos, we can say herd or flock.
How many people are killed by hippos?
The hippo holds the title of the deadliest creature on the African continent. According to statistics, this animal is responsible for the deaths of up to 3,000 individuals per year.