The family Hippopotamidae incorporates large semi-aquatic mammals which are primarily naked skinned. The family has mainly two species of hippopotamus only, the common hippopotamus of sub-Saharan Africa and the other is pygmy hippopotamus of Liberia. The common hippopotamus is also tagged as river hippopotamus or just hippo. Apart from their size, other aspects distinguish the common hippos from the pygmy hippos. The hippos are identified for their bulky body and unusual stumpy feet. These are some of the heaviest land mammals and comes second after the African bush elephants. The term ‘hippopotamus’ translates to ‘river horse’ in ancient Greek. The hippos prefer staying underwater for most of the day to escape from the heat, while they come back to the land to mainly feed on grasses. The species is further divided into five subspecies based on their territories and morphology. The subspecies are Nile hippopotamus also referred to as Great northern hippopotamus, the Angola hippopotamus, the Tchad hippopotamus or West African hippopotamus, East African hippopotamus, and the South African hippopotamus or the Cape hippopotamus. The population of hippos is under threat because they are hunted for their ivory, hide and meat but several measures are being taken to protect them.
To learn more about the hippopotamus keep reading this article as more fascinating facts are stated below. If you like this article then you should check our articles on African manatees and Risso's dolphin, and share the facts with everyone.
The second heaviest land mammal, the hippopotamus, is a semi-aquatic animal and has five subspecies.
The hippos belong to the class of mammals, of family Hippopotamidae, and genus Hippopotamus. The species is branched into five subspecies namely, H. a. amphibius, H. a. kiboko, H. a. tschadensis, H. a. constrictus, H. a. capensis.
The population of the hippos is declining with every passing day. Some of its species such as the European hippopotamus, Hippopotamus gorgops, and Hippopotamus major became extinct before the last glaciation while three other species of the Malagasy hippopotamus faced extinction during the Holocene period. The extant species River hippos have only 125,000-148,000 individuals left.
The geographical distribution of the Hippopotamus amphibius is limited within Africa now. However, it was once widely spread across the territories of Europe and North Africa. It is particularly found in the region near the main rivers of Central Africa and the savanna. Its range incorporates Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic, Benin, Burundi, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Kenya, and many more.
The ideal habitat of the common hippos includes any type of water bodies including swamps, lakes, rivers. They spend most of the day submerging their bodies in rivers and lakes to escape the heat. They are also observed on the mud banks. However, they can adapt in both shallow water and deep water but a minimum depth of 6.5 ft (2m) is necessary for submerging their bodies.
The common hippos are observed swimming or resting on the mud backs in groups however, the grazing is done in solitary. The temperament of the hippos is unpredictable as they can get aggressive at times.
The hippopotamus lifespan in the wild and captivity is 55 years approximately. Nevertheless, the longest a hippos have lived for more than 61 in captivity.
The common hippos follow a polygynous mode of reproduction which means that a male hippo mates with many females. The female hippos attain sexual maturity after 3.5 years of age. There is no definite mating season but largely they mate between February to August. The male hippo identifies female hippos in heat by the smell. During this process of searching the male hippo acts submissive as not to get attacked. The male hippo once finds its mate, the courtship commences. The stages of courtship may involve the male hippo pushing the female out of the water and pursuing her in deep water. The method of reproduction is sexual, as the male hippo mounts the female and pushes her head underwater. The male hippo produced a honking sound while mating. After mating successfully the female gives birth to one cub after a gestation period of 324 days.
The conservation status of the common hippos according to the IUCN is Vulnerable. Their status was confirmed in 2006 after their population decreased rapidly. The hippos are killed for their meat, ivory, and hind and the major hippopotamus predator may include crocodiles. They are now being protected under various laws. Another factor that is responsible for the decline of its population is habitat loss. Tanzania constitutes the highest hippo population and has around 20,000-30,000 hippos including in its Serengeti National Park.
The second-largest land mammal of sub-Saharan Africa is 114.17-198.82 in (290-505 cm) including its 13.7 in (35 cm) tail. They weigh around 2866-9920 lb (1300-4500 kg) and are predominantly gray with a tinge of pink around their ears and eyes. The common hippos are the species in which the male hippos are larger than the female. A layer of thin hair covers the body of hippos and it is dense near the tail and head. They have a bulky body and short stumpy feet which is webbed. This enables them to locomote smoothly underwater and while walking on land but they are clumsy. The hippos secrete a fluid that works as a sunscreen and is called ‘blood sweat’ as they are devoid of sweat glands. The ears and nostrils are placed on the top of its head so that it can breathe and be cautious of any danger.
Hippos may be huge but due to their bulky body, they look cute while swimming with their ears and nostrils over the water. Many animated characters, such as Gloria from the film 'Madagascar,' are beloved hippos.
Hippos produce many different sounds to communicate in water as well as on the land. They squeak, croak, whine and grunt underwater and honk both in water and on land.
Common hippos are huge and the male hippos are often bigger than the female, however, the average body length of these animals is 114.17-198.82 in (290-505 cm). The common hippos are bigger than the pygmy hippopotamus which is 4.92–5.74 ft (150–175 cm) in length.
The hippopotamus speed is approximately 19 mph (30 kph).
The weight of a male hippo is around 3,500-9,920 lb (1587-4499.6 kg) and a female is around 3000 lb (1360 kg). They are the second-heaviest land mammal losing out to the African bush elephant.
The male hippos are referred to as bulls and the female hippos are called cows.
A baby hippo is called a calf or calves. The hippopotamus babies are approximately 48.5-121 lb (22-55 kg) when they are born.
These large animals are herbivores primarily and the hippopotamus diet mainly consists of grass and their teeth enable griding of the grass easier.
Yes, a hippopotamus can attack people and other animals when threatened. They are aggressive and their temperament is unpredictable.
No, they wouldn’t. They are too big to be kept as pets and besides, they are vulnerable and should be left in their natural habitat.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
Dolphins, whales, and porpoises are considered are closely linked with Hippopotamidae.
Hippos can open their mouth at around 180°.
One extraordinary feature of hippo teeth is that their incisor and canine tend to grow continuously and can reach 15.7 in (40 cm) and 19.6 in (50 cm) respectively.
The common hippos were once widely found in the wild, however, they are facing a great threat. Animals like crocodiles, lions, and hyenas are some of their predators and human being are no less of a threat. The IUCN declared this species as Vulnerable in 2006 and they are locally extinct in many places. The teeth of a hippo are formed of ivory for which it is hunted by people. Other than its ivory, its meat and hide are also valuable. Due to all these activities, it is an endangered species now. Several laws have been laid to protect these hippos, they are protected under may wildlife reserve and National parks such as the Serengeti National Park, Kruger National Park, Hluhluwe National Park and other.
The family Hippopotamidae currently consists of two species - the pygmy hippos and the common hippos. The common hippos have further five subspecies that can be distinguished based on the region where they are found. The Nile hippopotamus is now locally extinct in Egypt but they still exist in the region of Mozambique and Tanzania. The Angola hippopotamus can be found as its name suggests in Angola along with Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The South African hippopotamus skull is flat and it is observed in the areas extending from South Africa to Zambia. The Tchad hippopotamus has a wider face that is lightly short and it is an inhabitant of Western Africa. The fifth subspecies is the East African hippopotamus that has a range covering Somalia and Kenya.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including our Nile lechwe facts and Commerson's dolphin facts pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable hippopotamus coloring pages.