ANIMALS A - Z

Hippo Facts


Hippopotamus amphibius
 
The word Hippopotamus derives from Greek meaning 'River horse'. Its name is also shortened to 'hippo'.
 
These large creatures are not built to be strong swimmers but instead walk on the surface of the ground under water to get around.
 
Hippos have a large lung capacity and are capable of holding their breath under water for up to 8 minutes. Young calves can stay under water up to 2 minutes.
 
The hippo is the third largest mammal in Africa after the African elephant and the white rhino.A large hippo cow will weigh up to 2000kg (4400 pounds) and a large male 3000kg (6600 pounds).
 
At birth a calf weighs about 40 - 45kg (88 - 99 pounds). The female gives birth under water. The mothers' milk has a very thick texture and does not dissolve very easily in water which makes it possible for the calf to drink under water.
 
The skin of a hippopotamus is relatively sensitive to the sun and can burn and even dry and crack when exposed for too long, this forces them to spend most of the daylight hours submerged in the protection of water.
 
Hippos have limited protection from the sun in the form of their sweat. The sweat which is red in color (often mistaken for blood) acts as a mild sunblock and moisturizer and also has anti-bacterial qualities.
 
Of all land mammals in Africa the Hippopotamus is considered the most dangerous. On record the hippopotamus has killed the most people. Most of these cases are in rural areas where there is no running water and people are forced to bath and wash their clothing in rivers and dams. Hippos sometimes act very aggressively when their pathway to the water is blocked which may result in an attack and death by trampling and biting.
 
The collective noun for a group of hippopotamus is a 'RAFT' or 'POD'.
At a top running speed of 40km/hour (25 mph), the hippo will quite easily catch the average running man.
 
After sun set these large bodied creatures leave the water to graze on grass for the night. On sun rise they return to the water before it gets to hot.
 
Although they are considered herbivores hippos have been known to feed on meat, especially animals that have died and whose bodies have been floating in the water and the meat is soft enough to take bites off. This is very uncommon but has been recorded.