18 Fun Facts about Hippos

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Hippopotamuses might seem gigantic but they even look gentle at the same time, however, they are the world’s most dangerous creatures. You will always spot them submerged in the water bodies as being their thick skin requires constant cooling. Staying in the muddy water keeps their body hydrated.

Here are some fun facts about hippos.

1. Sleep underwater

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Being a semi-aquatic mammal, hippos sleep in the water by fully submerging their bodies. For breathing they pop up to the surface every few minutes without even waking up.

2. Herbivores animal

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Hippos munch on grass and some selective fruit species. Their digestive system is similar to the other herbivore animals with some of their own adaptations. On an average, a single hippo could consume 40kgs of food.

3. Exceptional breathing power

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The hippos spend an average of 15 hours a day in the water, but they certainly can’t breathe underwater. Instead they can hold their breath for more than 5 minutes when fully submerged inside. They tend to close their nostrils when submerged underwater.

4. 2 Kind of species

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The most commonly known species of hippopotamus is hippopotamus or hippopotamus amphibius. These can measure up to 6 to 16 feet long. On the other hand, the pygmy hippo or choeropsis liberiensis, a smaller species of hippopotamus, is about 5 feet long.

5. Nocturnal animal

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Most of their activities happen during the night time. They are seen leaving their resting water near dusk and returning in the morning.

6. Make their own sunblock

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Hippos live in sub Saharan Africa, where the UV rays are extremely strong. To this, the hippos have developed an ability to produce a red, oily liquid that acts as a natural sunblock.

7. Identify friends from enemies

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By smelling the excreta of a hippo, another can identify whether it’s their friend or enemy. Hippos use middens, outdoor spots where they constantly go to the bathroom. Hippos can later sniff the area and find out who has been there.

8. Whales and dolphins are their closest relatives

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Hippos and whales had a common ancestor which lived about 55 million years ago, after which the hippos and cetaceans branched out. We can see some commonalities between them like nearly hairless skin and underwater birth. Facts say that hippos make clicks while moving underwater, similar to a cetacean echolocation.

9. Can’t swim

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It’s true that these semi aquatic animals can’t swim. Their heavy bones make it nearly impossible for them to swim but they can walk, gallop or bounce in shallow rivers and lakes. They are deceptively fast when moving underwater and on land, where they can run up to 24mph.

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10. Fish give hippos a spa

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African fishes including cichlids and barbels eat the dead skin, algae and parasites from the hippos skin and inside their mouth. The fishes eat this crud as a food source and it even removes harmful pathogens from the hippo’s body.

11. A deadly creature

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Hippos are the deadliest mammal in Africa, even more dangerous than lions or elephants. Their majority of victims are fishermen or boaters whom they attack from underwater. They have the power to amputate limbs, fracture bones, and mangle soft tissues. Back in 2014, 13 people in Niger died as a hippopotamus overturned their boat.

12. People hunt Hippos

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Homo sapiens and our ancestors used to hunt Hippos for their meat and even collect the bones to make tools. Ancient Egyptians hunted hippos for their meat, teeth, skin, and carved spiritually protective designs into their tusk – like canines. Because hippo ivory is stronger and denser than the elephant’s, it was a popular material used for dentures in the 18th century.

13. Hippopotamus means river horse

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The origin of the word comes from an ancient Greek term that means ‘river horse’. The reason might be them walking on the river bed which makes them look like racing horses.

14. Mouth wide open

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Their mouth has a capacity to open up to 150 degrees. This is useful to scare off other animals and defend themselves. An adult bull hippo can open up to 180 degrees too.

15. Running speed

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Though they are gigantic in size they can run at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour on land. And on water 8 kilometers per hour. The speed could be a danger to the encroaching humans or predators.

16. Group of hippos

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They are termed as herd, pod, bloat and Dale. The most common word is herd. The other terms would be a little difficult to understand in everyday conversations.

17. Strong hippo bite

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The force is 2,000 pounds per square inch. When compared to a lion or tiger, their force is 1000 pounds per square inch. That’s the reason why most animals wouldn’t invade the hippo territory or they might be torn into pieces.

18. Marking territory

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They mark their territory by defecating. The territory is marked in water by spinning their tails to distribute their excreta as far as possible. The area could be around 200 meters in range.

Hippos have been listed as one of the endangered species. The amount of poaching and habitat fragmentation they are facing is increasing day by day. The major reasons for these are disasters driven by human activity and climate change. We have the power to help the hippos and other animals by lessening our meat consumption and carbon footprints on Earth.

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