Hippopotamus animal<<<< Back to wild animals
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Clade: Scrotifera
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Hippopotamidae
- Genus: Hippopotamus
- Conservation status: Vulnerable
- Length: 3 - 5 m (120 - 200 inch)
- Height: 1.5 m (60 inch)
- Weight: 1500 - 2500 kg (3.300 - 4.400 lbs)
- Food: Herbivore (Grasses, Grain, Flowers)
- Speed: 45kph (30mph)
- Predators: Lions, Hyenas, Crocodiles
- Sexual Maturity: 6 - 14 years
- Gestation Period: 250 days
- Population: 125.000 in may 2006
- Lifespan: 40 - 50 years
- Litter size: 1 calf
- Distinctive Feature: Pink antibacterial sweat. Ears, eyes and nostrils on top of the head.
The hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) is an African amphibian mammal, the third-largest type of land mammal. Its name comes from Greek, meaning horse of the river (hippos = horse, potamus = river).
In the past, the hippos were scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but today their habitat was limited to a few regions in eastern and southeastern Africa. Treading the soil and destroying the crops led to efforts to exterminate them - their skin and meat are also appreciated. Hippos have completely dispapeared from North Africa until de 1800s and in southern Natal and Transvaal in the 1900s.
They are still spread in East Africa, but for example the Lake Chad specific breed in central-western Africa is threatened by extinction. Hippo populations are continuously decreasing. There is still a high demand for hippo teeth, as a source of fine ivory, which can be easily processed - once was used to manufacture false teeth.
The estimated population is between 125,000 and 150,000 hippos, a decline of between 7% and 20% since the IUCN's 1996 study.
At night hippos go on known trails, up to 10 km to pastures around waters, to feed for 5-6 hours. The long canines and incisors are used as a weapon - grazing is done by grabbing the grass with the large and hard lips and jerking the head hard. Near rivers, where the grass is grazed and trampled, large areas can become completely devoid of vegetation, leading to erosion.
However hippos eat quite a bit compared to their body weight (about 35 kg per night), because their energy requirements are low due to the fact that they spend most of the time sitting in warm water. Hippos don't chew, but retain food in the stomach a long time, extracting the protein by a digestion process based on fermentation. Their digestive process is responsible for issuing a large number of nutrients in the African rivers and lakes, thus favoring fish, which are themselves a crucial source of protein for the local human population.
It has a barrel-shaped body, an enormous mouth, short legs and four toes on each foot. It can reach a length of 3.5 m, a shoulder height of 1.5m and a weight of 3,200kg. The skin is very thick, almost devoid of hair, of a brown-gray color on the back, and lighter, pink, on the ventral side.
The ears and nostrils remain on the surface when the body is submerged. Hippos live near rivers, lakes, marshes or other pools of water, usually in groups of 7 to 15 individuals. There is no obvious sexual dimorphism, females and young males are often confused.
- Great northern hippopotamus or Nile hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius amphibius)
- East African hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius kiboko)
- Cape hippopotamus or South African hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius capensis)
- West African hippopotamus or Tchad hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius tschadensis)
- Angola hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius constrictus)
During the day they sleep and rest in or near water. At night they come ashore to feed on grass. In water they can swim fast and even walk on its bottom, because they can remain submerged for more than 5 minutes. Although they can often be seen lounging in the sun, hippos dehydrate very quickly and need water to rehydrate their skin. Water is also needed to cool off the body, because they don't sweat.
Their skin is endowed with numerous glands that secrete a reddish substance, which led to an old myth that says that hippos would sweat blood. The substance secreted by these glands acts as a filter against ultraviolet rays. Hippos like shallow waters in which they can sleep half submerged. The number of specimens is limited to those favorable areas, which can become quite crowded - up to 150 hippos can share the same pool during the dry season. In times of drought or famine they leave on long migrations, often resulting in the death of many specimens.
Females live in herds, but wont permanently associate with other females, although sometimes they keep relations with their offsprings for several years. When close, the dominant males from neighboring territories stare at each other, then turn around, and with their rears out of the water, eliminate feces and urine in a wide arc. This behavior indicates that the territory is occupied.
The other males in the territory make piles of dung along the access roads in their area, marking it. Hippos recognize each other by smell and sometimes follow one another, with the nose close to the tail of the one in front, in their nocturnal walks. Rarely disputes will appear between males, when foreign bulls invade the mating territories. Most attacks consist of noise, water splashing, false attacks and displaying of the teeth by wide opening the mouth, but sometimes the opponents engage in violent battles, trying to tear their opponents from the side with the lower incisors. The wounds can be fatal despite the thick skin.
The males mature at age 8, but most matings are performed by the dominant males, of over 20 years of age. They monopolize for 12 years or more, areas near rivers, called mating territories. Other males are tolerated, but only if they don't try to mate. Females gather in these areas during dry periods, when most matings occur. Females mature at the age of 3 in zoos, but in the wild maturity does not occur before the age of 13 years.
After an eight-month gestation a single calf is born, weighing about 45 kg. The calf may close their ears and nostrils to feed under water and can climb on their mothers back to rest. They will start eating grass at the age of one month and will be weaned at the age of 6-8 months. Females give birth to a calf every two years. Young calves are vulnerable to crocodiles, lions and hyenas. Their longevity is up to 49 years in captivity, but will rarely exceed 40 years in the wild.
Did you know that:
Hippos have killed more humans than any other animal? Fearlessly protecting their turf and young, hippos have killed over 400 people in Africa - more than any other wild animal.
Hippopotamus amphibius means "river horse".
Hippopotamus is the third largest animal on earth.
Almost all famous hunters and explorers of Africa had mishaps with hippos and considered them evil and violent beasts.
Hippopotamus milk is pink and very high in calories.
A hippo can run faster than a man.