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Killer Hippos

Updated on August 24, 2011

Which African mammal kills more humans than any other?

The hippopotamus - yes, nice Hippo !

Unfortunately hippos like to hang out near slow-moving fresh water bordered by grass – the same habitat favoured by humans.

Most accidents occur either because a submerged hippo has been inadvertently whacked on the head with a paddle and decides to overturn the boat or because people are out walking at night, just the time when hippos leave the water to graze. Being trampled by a startled hippo is not a dignified way to die.

Where they come from ?

Hippopotamuses, once believed to be members of the pig family but now shown to be most closely related to whales, are divided into two species: Common and Pygmy. The common hippo is the third-largest land mammal after the African and Asian elephants.

Not many animals are stupid enough to attack a hippo. They are very irritable beasts, especially when they have young. They dispose of lions by plunging them into deep water and drowning them, crocodiles by biting them in half, and sharks by dragging them out of the water and trampling them to death.

However, they are strict vegetarians, so their aggression is mostly to do with self-defence. Hippos mainly eat grass. The skin of a hippopotamus weighs a ton. It is 4 cm (1.5 inches) thick – bullet-proof as far as most guns are concerned – and accounts for 25 per cent of the animal’s weight. It exudes an oily red fluid which keeps it from drying out, which used to make people think that hippos sweat blood.

They are Fast too !

Don’t be fooled by their bulk. A fully grown hippo can easily outrun a man. Hippos are the only mammal other than whales and dolphins to mate and give birth under water. They can close their nostrils, flatten their ears and stay completely submerged for up to five minutes at a time.

Hippos have appalling breath. When they appear to be yawning, they are in fact blasting everything around them with halitosis as a warning to stay clear.

This is good advice: a hippo’s tusks are sharp and a snap of the jaws can easily sever a limb. Hippos have only four teeth, which are made of ivory.

George Washington and Hippos ?

Part of George Washington’s set of false teeth was made from hippopotamus ivory.

Revenge ?

According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the best part of a hippopotamus to eat is their breasts, pot roasted with herbs and spices. Failing that, the back muscles, cooked in the same manner, are acceptable.


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