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Did you know…? - How much do we know about hippopotamuses?

The name hippopotamus means “river horse” in ancient Greek.

A group of hippos is called a bloat but it is also known as a herd, or a pod.

A male hippo is called a bull while a female hippo is called a cow. A baby hippo is called a calf.

Hippos live in Africa and can be found in forests and savannahs.

These beautiful mammals spend a large amount of their life in water, such as streams, lakes, rivers, and swamps.

But did you know that hippos cannot swim and cannot float? The reason for spending the majority of their time in water is to protect their extremely sensitive skin from the harsh African sun.

When you see a hippo in a body of water, they’re actually balancing on their tippy-toes or standing on a sandbank. Hippos sink when in deep water. So, when a hippo is underwater, they aren’t swimming but rather trotting along on the bottom.

Although hippos spend most of their time submerged in water, they need to resurface every 3 - 5 minutes to breathe. The motion of surfacing and breathing through their nostrils is an automatic one, so they even do this when they are sleeping.

Hippos have their eyes, nose, and ears on the top of their head, so they can still see whilst submerged in the water.

Some sources report that hippos are considered the second largest mammal who live on Earth, only behind the elephant, while others place them on the third place behind elephants and white rhinos.

Despite their impressive size, however, hippos are not big eaters.

Hippos are herbivores and although they will eat any plant that comes their way, grass is their favorite. They can spend up to 4-5 hours a day grazing.

While they are surrounded by aquatic plants for most of the day, they do not eat them and search for food on land instead. Hippos forage for food at night to escape the blistering African heat of the day.

During the first year of life hippo calves nurse on milk from their moms. The hippos’ body has adapted to allow the calves to nurse both on land and underwater. The eyes and nostrils close to prevent the calf from ingesting water and they can maintain this position for several minutes. Despite internet rumors, hippo milk is not pink. Like most other mammals, their milk is whitish yellow in color.

Due to their size, adult hippos do not have animal predators.

These amazing semi-aquatic mammals are threatened by humans as they are poached for their meat and their ivory teeth.

Hippopotamuses are considered one of the most dangerous animals where they live and will rightfully attack anything or anyone who hurts or threatens them.

When threatened on land, most hippos will run for cover in water nearby and display their sign of aggression which we see as a yawn. Hippos only “yawn” when in water and they are actually showing you how big their teeth are!

Hippos are known to attack other hippos who are trying to take their territory, and females will attack predators that are trying to hurt their young.

There are a few predators that will try to hunt young hippos such as Nile crocodiles, lions, and hyenas.

Hippos are also known to make honking or grunting sounds whilst in water to mark their territory.

Did you know that two of the most important things in hippos’ lives take place in water?

Mating and giving birth happen in water.

Hippos mate every two years. Both males and females use vocalizations, body language, and even their own urine and feces to show their interest (or lack thereof).

A male will travel, compete, and fight other males to get the mate he wants, so typically only dominant, powerful hippos are allowed to mate successfully. A male may have up to 10 mates in one lifetime.

Female hippos have a gestational period of roughly 8 months. Hippos will only have one baby at a time.

Have you ever seen a hippo basking in the sun? If you have, you may have noticed what seems to be blood dripping from their skin. Hippos have evolved over time to be able to secrete this substance, oily and red in color which comes from pores in their skin, which protects them from the sun’s rays, and it is also an effective moisturizer and germ-killer.

Did you know that remains of hippos were found underneath Trafalgar Square? (a public square in the City of Westminster in Central London, UK).

If you would like to read more “Did you know….?” stories by Voice For Us, please click here.

Enjoy it!


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Judy A Canon
Judy A Canon
Mar 19, 2022

I learn something interesting every time I read your “Did you know”. Many thanks!!!

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