Hippo – facts, habitat, diet and size with pictures

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Updated: October 26, 2016

Hippopotamus or Hippo is one of the largest mammals in the sub-Sahara region of Africa and is mostly considered as herbivorous mammal. Generally, they are recognized through their uniquely shaped torsos and large opening of the mouth which highlight their large tusks and body which has a very few amount of hair. Their average weight is around 1500 kg for males and 1300 kg for females respectively. Despite the fact that it has a strange shape and possesses short legs, it has the capacity to run 30 kilometers per hour over a short distance.

It is interesting to note that hippos are viewed as very aggressive and volatile and are termed as the most threatening animal in the continent of Africa.


Types of Hippopotamus

There are two kinds of species of hippos in the world currently namely, common hippopotamus and Pygmy hippopotamus. Both of these types are widely found in Africa. Details regarding the description of these hippos have been presented below:

Common Hippo
It is widely believed that common hippo is the larger of the two species of hippo that are found currently and is generally weighed around three tons. Considering its strength, it was considered and viewed as a sign of strength and productivity in the ancient Egypt.
Pygmy Hippo
Unlike the description of Common Hippo which has been highlighted above, the size of pygmy hippo is smaller than the overall size of a common hippo. In addition to that, these are the kinds of hippos that are generally feared by the loss of habitat as forests are cut down and transformed into land used for farms. They also face increasing threat of hunting as they are illegally hunted down in different parts of Liberia.


Characteristics of Hippos

Hippos generally love water and are quite fond of staying into it for a longer period of times. They also kept themselves for around 16 hours under water to make sure that their large massive bodies are being kept cool under an extremely hot temperature of Africa. Therefore, it is believed that they cannot survive without water.

One interesting fact about them is that their eyes and nostrils are situated on their forehead which facilitates them in seeing and breathing even when they are underwater. After spending the daytime in water, they come out in the field for grazing at the time of sunset.

Another interesting fact about their characteristics is that they have the largest mouth among all the animals on the land.



The alpha hippo or a large hippo is a forceful creature; old and fresh scars, profound injuries are indications of the day by day battles that are joined by much crying, neighing, and grunting. Hippos have built up some ritualized stances like the immense surprised “yawn” that uncovers their tooth is a standout amongst the most forceful. With the long, extremely sharp incisors and tusk-like canines; the hippo is very much dangerous to be close to.

Hippos move effortlessly in water, either swimming by kicking their rear legs or strolling on the base. They are very much adjusted to their oceanic life, with little ears, eyes, and nostrils set at the highest point of the head. These faculties are keen to the point that even submerged in water, the hippo is aware of its environment and can sense if there’s a danger. By shutting its ears and nostrils, the grown-up hippos can stay submerged for almost 6 minutes.


Population of Hippos

The analysis regarding the population of hippos has highlighted an alarming situation through which their overall population is on a decline. The overall population has declined to around 90% in the past decade or so which has created serious threats to its existence in the future. Less than three decades ago, there were more than 29,000 hippos that were found in the rivers of Congo. However, the natural breed these days in Congo which is considered as one of the major homelands of hippos has come down to just 1300. One of the major reasons behind this is the fact that the meat of the hippos is being consumed a lot in the central region of Africa.

Moreover, the recent global restriction on the trade of elephant ivory has resulted in exporters using teeth hippos as an alternative due to the fact that they are longer than 60 centimeters.


Diet of Hippopotamus

As far as the diet of hippos is concerned, then it has been studied that they generally like to graze on grasses that are close to the beds of rivers. Keeping in view the peculiarity of their teeth, they consume small pieces of vegetation so that they can chew it properly. Apart from that, fruits are also consumed by some of them that fall onto the ground.
Hippos are also quite affectionate towards the use of plants such as hay, alfalfa, and lettuce. They are able to obtain these plants through various zoos that exist in Africa. However, on some occasions, they have also been seen eating meat and insects. They resort to this kind of diet mainly due to the shortages of grass, process of vegetation. Consumption of aquatic plants on rare occasion is also one of the parts of their diet.

In addition to that, they generally eat around 40 kg of grass in a single day. They attained their bulky figure with the laid-back  lifestyle they have. They spend a majority of their time in cooling off and digesting their food.



As we know that hippos generally live in water; therefore, their reproductive system is also carried out in the water. Female hippos are mostly ready to breed at the age of 5 to 6. However, the average age for males for this process is a little older with being 7 to 8 years. The process of breeding generally begins in the initial phase of the rainy season which provides them with the ideal condition to carry out the process of breeding.

Heavy rains provide them huge a amount of water and food which helps male and female hippos to interact with each other. The females give birth in the water which is helpful in saving her energy and protecting the newly born from other animals. The baby is born 8 months after the process of interaction takes place between male and female hippos. The female hippo is also responsible for the creation of milk for her newly born in the first 6 to 8 months of the newly born baby.


Caring for the Young

Only one baby is born at hippo’s family either on the land or in shallow water. In water, the mother helps the infant to the surface, later showing it to swim. Recently born hippos are generally little, weighing from 55 to 120 pounds, and are secured by their moms, from crocodiles and lions as well as from male hippos that, strangely, don’t trouble them on land yet try to attack them in water.
Young hippos can just stay submerged for half a minute only while the grown-ups can stay submerged up to six minutes. Baby hippos can get fed under water by taking a full breath, shutting their nostrils and ears and wrapping their tongue firmly around the nipple to suck. This technique must be instinctual the mere fact that infants find the same route on land. A baby hippo starts to eat grass at 3 weeks, yet its mom keeps on feeding it for around a year. Infants frequently hop on their moms’ backs to rest.


Awesome Hippo Images













Did you know?

The term hippopotamus comes from the Greek language word “hippos,” that means horse. Hippos were once called “river horses.” But surprisingly the hippos are more closely related to pigs as compared to with horse.

Hippos spend the greater part of their day in the water near shore lying on their stomachs. In regions undisturbed by human life, hippos lie on the shore in the morning sun.

A hippo must stay wet with water or mud, in light of the fact that if its skin dries out, it will start to crack. Its skin likewise secretes a red liquid that is thought to be an anti-microbial, sunscreen and skin lotion. Individuals once believed that the red discharges were blood and that the hippos sweat blood.

Hippos can stay submerged in water for up to 5 minutes without surfacing for oxygen, as indicated by analysts and scientists. When they rest in the water, their bodies consequently weave up to the highest point of the water so they can calmly inhale, and afterward, they dive back into the bottom.

Hippos can go up to three weeks without food as they save food in their stomach.

Hippos are quick for their size. They can keep running up to 14 mph (23 km/h), as indicated by the San Diego Zoo.

Hippo’s eyes and nostrils are on top of their head. This permits them to inhale and glance around while their body is submerged in water

Hippos can live up to fifty years.

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