The Hippopotamus is the 3rd largest animal after elephants and rhinos. There are 2 species of hippo. The large or common hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius), is found in East Africa, south of the Sahara. The pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) comes from West Africa, and is rare. The common hippo can be 13 feet long and 5 feet tall, weighing up to 3 ½ tons (7000 pounds). The pygmy only weighs 440 to 600 pounds and is 4.9 to 5.7 feet long. Not as much is known about the pygmy hippo.
With no sweat glands, hippos keep cool in the water or in mud. But they do secrete a red fluid that helps them avoid sunburn. While most of its body is underwater, a hippo can hear, see, and breathe, since its eyes, ears, and nostrils are on the top of its head and nose. When completely underwater, its nose and ears close automatically.
Hippos live in herds of 10 to 30. The dominant male can mate will all the females in the herd. If challenged, a male hippopotamus will fight using its long canine tusks. These teeth can grow a foot long.
A hippopotamus is born underwater. The mother helps her baby to the surface to breathe. Hippos bear single young. Calves weigh 55 to 120 pounds and nurse underwater. Mother hippos protect them from lions, leopards, crocodiles and male hippos. Sometimes calves will rest on their mother’s back.
Hippos mature at an average age of 7 (males) to 9 (females) years and have a life expectancy of about 45 years. On top they are brownish gray and underneath pinkish. Hippos have good sight, sense of smell, and hearing.
The name hippopotamus comes from 2 Greek words that mean river horse. These animals are aggressive and not afraid of people.
Fun Hippopotamus Facts
- A common hippo’s hide alone can weigh half a ton!
- Male hippos will attack young hippos in the water, but not on land.
- An adult hippopotamus can stay submerged for 5 to 6 minutes.
- A baby hippo can eat grass in 3 weeks, but nurses for a year.
- A hippopotamus can eat 100 to 150 pounds of grass in a night.
- A hippo’s tail is up to 22 inches long.
African Wildlife Foundation
San Diego Zoo
Young Peoples Trust for the Environment
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