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The Hippopotamus

Author: Pearson Scott Foresman, PD

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The hippopotamus is the world's third largest land animal after the elephant and the rhino. Hippos are found in the central and southern portion of the continent of Africa. They are herbivores and eat mostly grass.

How big are Hippos?

Hippos are really big! They can grow up to 10 feet long, 5 feet high at the shoulder, and weigh 7000 pounds.

What are their unique features?

Many of the Hippo's features enable them to spend a lot of time in the water. Their eyes, ears, and nose are all at the top of their head. This works out well because it helps them to be almost totally submerged under the water, but at the same time they can listen and watch for predators. They also have a clear membrane that covers their eyes and helps them to see under water. When they go under water, they can hold their breath for a long time.

Hippos in the river
Author: safaritravelplus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Do they swim?

You would think that hippos are great swimmers as they spend much of their time in the water, however, they don't really swim. What they do is bound or walk along the bottom of the river. They do have a lot of fat which helps them to float a bit, but once they sink they need to walk to shallow water to get back to the surface.

Are they dangerous?

Yes, hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in the world. They are responsible for more human deaths than any other large animal in Africa. They are extremely aggressive when provoked and will not hesitate to attack humans. Despite their huge size, they can run at speed of up to 20 miles per hour. Also, they have two large tusks on the bottom of their mouth that can be over a foot long. When you combine their size, speed, aggressiveness, and long teeth together, you get one dangerous beast.

What is a hippopotamus baby called?

A hippopotamus baby is called a calf. The calf is actually born under water.

Do hippos live in groups?

Hippos often live in large groups of up to 40 hippos. Leading each group is a dominant male along with female hippos and their calves. Sometimes there may be a few young males included the group.

Hippos on the riverbank
Author: safaritravelplus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
What do hippos do all day?

Hippos spend the day in the water keeping cool and resting. For such giant animals they can move in the water quite well and can hold their breath for up to five minutes. They also walk along the bottom of the riverbed or seabed. Once on land, Hippos can run very fast, much faster than the average human. At night, hippos come out of the water and feed off of grass.

Fun Facts About the Hippopotamus

For more about mammals:

African Wild Dog
American Bison
Bactrian Camel
Blue Whale
Giant Panda
Polar Bears
Prairie Dog
Red Kangaroo
Red Wolf
Spotted Hyena

Back to Mammals

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