Animals

Facts about Hippopotamus

26 facts about Hippopotamus

One of the most dangerous and aggressive mammals

At first glance, hippos appear to be gentle, slow animals. Aside from elephants, the only ones to surpass them in size, they are Africa's largest animals. However, they are also firm and fast, which, combined with their size, makes them one of Africa's most dangerous animals. Although they spend most of their time in the water, and their closest relatives are whales, they are poor swimmers but not bad runners on land. Unfortunately, these animals are becoming increasingly scarce, and the species has been placed on a list of vulnerable mammals.
1
The hippopotamus is an even-toed mammal in the hippopotamus family (Hippopotamidae).
Hippos are characterized by a massive body structure, thick undulating skin almost devoid of hair, and a thick layer of subcutaneous fatty tissue. They lead an amphibious lifestyle and can stay underwater for long periods. Hippos are classified with other families of even-toed ungulates, including camels, cattle, cervids, and pigs. Nevertheless, hippos are not closely related to these animals.
2
Two modern living species can be distinguished within the Hippopotamidae family - Choeropsis liberiensis, called pygmy hippopotamus, native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, and Hippopotamus amphibius, also called common hippopotamus, native to sub-Saharan Africa.
3
The Nile hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) name comes from ancient Greek and means "river horse" (ἱπποπόταμος).
4
The ancient Greeks thought the hippopotamus was related to the horse (hippos means horse).
Until 1985, naturalists grouped hippos with domestic pigs by suggesting the structure of their teeth. However, data obtained from the study of blood proteins, molecular phylogeny (path of ancestral development, origin, and evolutionary changes), DNA, and fossils indicate that their closest living relatives are cetaceans - whales, porpoises, dolphins, and others. The common ancestor of whales and hippos separated from other even-toed ungulates about 60 million years ago.
5
Hippos are among the largest modern mammals.
Because of their size, it is difficult to weigh such an individual in the wild. Based on estimates, it is assumed that the average weight of adult males is 1,500-1,800 kg. Although females are smaller than males, their average weight is 1,300-1,500 kg. Older males can weigh even more than 3,000 kg. Hippos reach their maximum body weight at the end of their lives. Females reach their maximum body weight at about 25 years of age.
6
Hippos reach an average of 3.5 - 5 meters in length and 1.5 meters in height at the withers.
Their head can weigh up to 225 kg. Hippos can open their mouths to a width of about 1 meter, and the length of their teeth reaches a maximum of 30 cm.
7
Hippos lead an amphibious lifestyle.
They mostly stay in the water during the daytime, showing activity after dusk and at night. Then they come ashore and nibble grass in meadows near the water (they also feed on aquatic plants). Moreover, they can venture up to 8 km inland in search of food. On land, despite their gigantic size, they can run faster than humans. Their speed ranges from 30 to even 50 km/h, but only over short distances, up to a few hundred meters.
8
They have a distinctive appearance.
Their trunk is barrel-shaped and hairless. Bristles are present only on the muzzle and tail. The legs are short, and the head is large. Although their skeleton is adapted to carry the significant weight of the animal, the water in which they live reduces their weight by the body's buoyancy. Eyes, ears and nostrils are placed high on the skull vault, allowing these animals to become almost completely submerged in the water and mud of tropical rivers. While submerged, the animals cool down, which protects them from sunburn. Hippos are also characterized by long tusks (about 30 cm long) and four toes connected by an amniotic membrane.
9
Their skin, about 4 centimeters thick, accounts for 25% of their body weight.
It is protected from the sun by a secreted substance that is natural sunscreen. This secretion, neither blood nor sweat, is initially colorless; after a few minutes, it becomes reddish-orange and eventually brown. It is made up of two pigments (red and orange), which are acidic solid chemical compounds, and the red pigment has additional bacteriostatic properties and is probably an antibiotic. Light absorption from both pigments has a maximum in the ultraviolet band, which protects hippos from excessive heat. Because of the color of the secretions, hippos are said to "sweat blood."
10
Hippos live about 40 years in the wild; in captivity, they live up to 50.
One of the world's oldest hippos, the 55-year-old "Hippolyte", died in 2016 at the Silesian Zoological Garden, Poland. He stayed with one partner, "Hamba", for 45 years. Together they lived to see 14 offspring. Unfortunately, Hamba passed away in 2011. The oldest known hippo living at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana, was called "Donna" and lived for 61 years. The oldest ever recorded hippo was "Bertha", who lived for approximately 65 years in the Manilla Zoo, Philippines.