Hippos form a family of mammals. Besides elephants, they are the heaviest animals living on land. They are also called hippos or hippopotamus. They live in Africa, mostly south of the Sahara desert. But you can also see them all along the Nile to the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.
The hippo’s head is large and massive with a snout that is very wide at the front. It can grow up to five meters long and weigh up to 4,500 kilograms, about the same as four small cars. Pygmy hippos grow up to one and a half meters long and can weigh up to 1000 kilograms.
How do hippos live?
Hippos spend most of the day lying in the water or spending their time near the water. They like to dive and often only their eyes, nostrils and ears stick out of the water. Although they are well adapted to aquatic life, they cannot swim. They walk along the bottom of the water or let themselves drift. They can stay underwater for up to three minutes without having to breathe.
Hippos are herbivores. At night they go ashore to feed. For this and for the search for food, they need up to six hours. They pluck the grass with their lips. Hippos have very large canine teeth, but they only use them in fights. When threatened, hippos are particularly dangerous animals.
Hippos mate in the water. The mother usually only carries a single cub in her belly for about eight months. That’s a little shorter than with humans. Birth happens in water. A young animal then weighs between 25 and 55 kilograms. It can walk in the water immediately. It also drinks its mother’s milk in the water. Already on the first night, it can follow its mother to a meadow.
The cub needs its mother’s milk for about six months. From then on it only eats plants. A hippopotamus does not become sexually mature until it is about ten years old. It can then reproduce itself. In the wild, hippos live to be 30-40 years old.
Are Hippos Endangered?
Adult hippos have almost no enemies. Only young animals are sometimes eaten by crocodiles, lions, or leopards. The females defend them together.
Humans have always hunted hippos. They ate their flesh and turned their skin into leather. The teeth are made of ivory like the elephants and are therefore popular with the people.
However, many people also consider hippos to be pests because they trample their fields and plantations. Worse, the hippos are finding fewer and fewer places to live. They are therefore extinct in certain areas. The rest are endangered.