Hippo (animal) – Information, feeding and characteristics

We explain everything about hippos, what they eat, where they live and other characteristics. Also, to what extent they are dangerous.

Hippos emerged 23 million years ago.

What are hippos?

The hippos They are a family of large and heavy mammals, of amphibian life, of which only two species survive today: the common hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) and the pygmy hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis).

Its name comes from the Greek hippos (“Horse“) and potamos (“River”), since the ancient Greeks considered it, precisely, a “river horse”. For their part, the ancient Egyptians called them “river pigs” and the Arabs “water buffalo”.

Evolutionarily related to cetaceans (whales), hippos arose sometime in the Miocene, about 23 million years ago, and proliferated throughout Eurasia, in numerous species of which fossil remains remain in abundance.

Its population has steadily declined with the passage of time, to the point that in human antiquity they were abundant in the Iberian Peninsula, Palestine and Lower Egypt, while today they have a much more restricted habitat.

Hippos are aggressive and territorial animals, unrelated to domestication, but at the same time they are a common presence in zoos around the world. His contact with the human being is not very close, and in the imagination of many cultures he was associated with motherhood and family; for example, in ancient Egyptian culture it was considered the sacred animal of Taweret, goddess of female fertility.

See also: Wild animals

Characteristics of hippos

hippopotamus characteristics
Hippos can spend up to 5 minutes underwater holding their breath.

Hippos are characterized by the following:

  • They are bulky, quadruped animals, with a plump, barrel-shaped body, and a large head with a wide mouth and thick snout. They have smooth and hairless skin, which lacks sebaceous glands, so that outside of the water they dehydrate easily.
  • An adult common hippo can measure up to 3.5 meters in length and weigh between 1.4 and 3.2 tons, and commonly spends 16 hours a day submerged in rivers, lakes and other bodies of water, since its eyes and nostrils located on the top of the head allow it. Then they go out to graze on dry land after sunset.
  • They are excellent swimmers, capable of spending up to 5 minutes underwater holding their breath, and can also run short distances at speeds close to 30 kmph.
  • Your sweaty secretions and your breast milk is reddish in color, due to the presence of certain natural pigments, which has given rise to the myth that hippos “sweat blood.”
  • When yawning, a warning sign to your potential rivals, your jaw can open up to about 150 °, displaying their large and thick teeth. Their incisors and canines grow throughout life, while their molars are suitable for crushing dietary plant fiber.
  • They are very aggressive and territorial animals, which is grouped in herds of between 20 and 100 individuals, within which the confrontations of the males are common and violent. The species communicates through smell and through grunts, hisses, and snorts.

Where do hippos live?

The hippos inhabit rivers, lakes, lagoons and bodies of fresh water that allow them to be submerged all day. Thus they protect themselves from the drying action of the sun, and also covering themselves with a layer of mud that blocks solar radiation. Respect for its geographical distribution, almost all are in sub-Saharan Africa, in the eastern, central and southern regions.

What do hippos eat?

The hippos they are herbivores, but do not become true ruminants. They eat short grasses, plants and fruits, being able to ingest up to 35 kg of plant matter per day. In adverse situations or in the face of a specific lack of nutrients, it is possible that they consume organic animal matter, either some type of fish or some carrion. But those attitudes are rather strange.

How do hippos reproduce?

hippo reproduction
Hippos suckle their young with a pigmented, reddish milk.

Like all mammals, hippos reproduce sexually and viviparously, with a gestational period of 8 months, and they have a calf every two years. Fights between males for the right to the female are common and violent.

For its part, parturition occurs in or out of the water, depending on the species, and the young are suckled with a pigmented, reddish milk. One out of every 200 births of hippos brings twins to the world.

How long hippos live?

The life expectancy of a hippo around 40 to 50 years.

How dangerous are hippos?

Hippos are very aggressive animals, considered among the most dangerous in Africa. In fact, they tend to cause more fatal accidents per year than other local species, including predators.

They are not at all shy when it comes to defending their territory, and they are not exactly friendly neighbors of other species, especially when they are in the water or when it comes to females with young. Thus, they are capable of overturning small boats, attacking land vehicles or unwary swimmers.