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Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius) are one of Africa’s largest with a fierce reputation, they are one of the worlds’ most unique animals which you won’t see anywhere else in the wild. But what are hippos all about?

Here’s TWELVE fascinating facts about Hippos…


1. The word “hippopotamus” comes from the Greek word for “water horse” or “river horse”.

2. Hippos can weigh up to 3 tonnes and are the second largest land animal behind elephants.

3. They spend most of their time in water (around 16 hours every day) of Africa’s lakes and rivers, with their eyes, nose and ears located on the top of their head. Their ears and nostrils fold shut to keep water out when completely submerged and can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes.

4. However, Hippos use the water only as a retreat and typically does not eat aquatic vegetation.

5. Interestingly, Hippos secrete a red liquid from subdermal glands which is thought to function as a sunscreen and antibiotic.

6. Hippos are herbivores, eating mostly grass as they forage during the night.

7. Hippos usually live in groups of around 10 to 30 individuals, led by a dominant male. Other members of these groups include females, young and non-breeding males. Larger herds of hippos may see up to 100-200 individuals.

8. As with many other animal groups and packs such as lions and wild dogs, dominant hippo’s are protective of their group and will warn off rivals with their huge mouths to display their canines, they’ll also loudly grunt and splash to display their power.

9. A beautiful, yet dangerous mammal, Hippos can be very aggressive both with their rivals and with humans should you stray too close and upset them. Reduction in natural habitat is one cause of their interactions with humans.

10. Female hippos (cows) typically give birth every 2 years and unlike many other animals who may give birth to multiple offspring, will only give birth to 1 calf to raise.

11. The average life-span of a hippo is 40 years.

12. Hippos are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ according to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, with the 2008 Red List Assessment estimating that Hippo populations to be approximately 125,000 and 148,000. Threats to hippos include habitat loss and illegal & unregulated hunting for meat and ivory (found in their canines).

So what have we learned about hippos?

Treat them with respect and admire these amazing animals from a safe distance. Hippos need our help by ensuring we support conservation efforts, going on safari also helps protect vital habitat, supports anti-poaching initiatives and provides us with beautiful photographs. As with any animal, we can appreciate hippos – the bonds they create within their close social groups, how they care for and protect their young, how their bodies have adapted to their way of life on land and in water.

Hippos are extraordinary and unique animals to see in the wild.


(Featured Image: Luangwa River Camp, South Luangwa, Zimbabwe)


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