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7 Fascinating Facts on The Hippo

Updated on December 23, 2009

1. The Massive Hippopotamus: The hippo lags behind only the elephant and white rhino in terms of size, making it the third largest mammal that exists today. A full-grown male hippo will weigh between 5000 lbs and 7000 lbs. A full-grown female hippo will weigh an average of 4000 lbs. Even the hippo’s hide is heavy and can way up to half a ton.

Hippo in River
Hippo in River

2. Surprisingly Aggressive: The hippo is known as one of the most aggressive mammals. The hippo’s teeth alone can measure up to 20 inches long and grow constantly. The hippo usually directs its aggression towards other hippos by gaping its mouth to show off its extensive teeth as well as by snorting, charging and scooping water with its large mouth.

Herd of Hippos
Herd of Hippos

3. The Hip Hippo: The hippo likes company and resides in a herd that contains 10 to 30 other hippos. The herd will contain several females, their children and one dominant male. In order to gain control of a herd, the adult males will often violently fight each other, sometimes to the death. If a male does not gain control, but is lucky enough to survive the competition, he will live on his own. The herd will usually live beside a river and the territory will stretch for approximately 250 miles.

4. A Grass Eater: Despite the hippo’s large size, its diet is relatively low in fat and small in portion size. The male hippo will eat on average 88 pounds of grass a night, which is equivalent to 1.5% of its total body weight. The hippo’s inactive lifestyle is what allows it to maintain such an enormous size on such a relatively limited diet.

5. Baby Hippos Nurse Underwater: Female cows have on average one calf every two years that weighs between 50 and 100 pounds. Perhaps the most amazing aspect about the calf is that it is able to nurse underwater. Initially, it will nurse for 35 seconds and then come up for air, but with practice the calf will build the capacity to nurse in two-minute intervals.

Hippo Cow with Calf
Hippo Cow with Calf

6. A Water Lover, but Not a Swimmer: The hippo has been known to spend up to 16 hours a day in water. Perhaps this is because the hippo’s closest relatives are the whale and the dolphin. The hippo is very adapted to its watery existence – it’s nose, ears and eyes are located at the top of its head, which enables the hippo to completely submerge itself under water while allowing just the top of its head to rest above the water’s surface.

When the hippo does fully immerse itself in water, it can still see! This is because its eyes are equipped with a special, clear membrane that protects its eyes. Additionally, the hippo’s nose and ears will automatically shut upon contact with water. Finally, the hippo's powerful lung capacity allow it to hold its breath between five and six minutes and if necessary, up to 30 minutes.

Judging from the hippo’s love for water, you would expect this unique animal to have the ability to swim. However, the hippo’s body is too heavy and instead it is only able to walk along the riverbed or kick its hind legs to gain some momentum under water. Instead of swimming, the hippo prefers to relax in the water and will spend most of its time resting, lying on its stomach in a shallow riverbed in order to absorb enough water to keep its skin moisturized.

Herd of Hippos in Water
Herd of Hippos in Water

7. Red Sweat: The hippo does not sweat and instead keeps cool by taking many water and mud baths. However, the hippo does secrete a sticky, red substance from special glands when it is excited. This secretion is known as “blood sweat” and is said to act as both a sun block and adds moisture to the hippo’s unique skin, which must constantly be kept moist.

The State of the Hippo

The Hippo lives throughout Africa, but today large populations only exist in East Africa. The Hippo population is currently declining, as its habitat is increasingly lost due to farming and a growing African population. Additionally, hippos are hunted for both their meat and ivory tusks which are a softer material than elephant tusks and thus easier to carve.

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    • profile image

      Roxy 

      6 years ago

      What are so FASCINATING in those facts..... they shouldn't have been such big paragraphs. I just expected small points!

    • profile image

      Kevin Schofield 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for a great hub. Brilliant photos and info. Incredible creatures that we should treasure for their unique existence, not their ivory. So very sad about their persecution and loss of habitat. Kind regards, Kev.

    • profile image

      kuboje 

      8 years ago

      Cool hub about hippo, very informative. Thanks

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