Did you know hippos are the third largest land-based mammals after elephants and white rhinos? These huge mammals can weight a massive 7,900 pounds. An adult hippo can easily be 15 feet long and about 5 feet tall. That is just a tasty little intro to some amazing Hippo facts for kids. Hippo is the shortened nickname given to the Hippopotamus, which is actually quite a hard word to say and spell.
An Amphibious Mammal
The fact that a hippo is comfortable on land as well as water is a sign that it is well-adapted to lead an amphibious lifestyle. During the day, hippos spend time in water bodies, such as swamps, lakes and rivers. They not only laze in water, but also fight and play in it. And, when night falls, they come out of the lake to graze on grass, their primary food.
Hippos’ ears, nostrils and eyes are located at the top of their head and this makes it easy for them to keep these organs out of the water when they are submerged. If hippos go completely underwater, their eyes, nostrils and ears close up with special flaps, preventing water from entering. These mammals also have thick lips that allow them to snap the grass growing in the African savannah.
A Herd of Hippos
Photo Credit: Sarahemcc (CC license)
My Herbivorous Diet
As big as hippos are, it is strange to know they are herbivores. Their diet consists solely of grass and they can eat up to 88 pounds of it in a single night. This may seem a lot, but when compared to their body size, it is not that much. This is because hippos are not the most active animals and hence, do not need too much energy. They can consume less food than other hoofed animals and still get by easily. Although they are mostly herbivores they have been seen scavenging meat from other dead animals.
Hippos are indigenous to Africa, but now can be found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, where they are protected. They live in western Africa, Guinea, Ethiopia, eastern side of the African continent and South Africa. Hippos live in lakes, swamps and rivers.
Mum and I
Usually, hippos are found in groups of 15. These groups are known as sieges, pods or bloats. However, during the dry season, the group becomes larger, when several groups converge at watering holes. This is the time when hippos mate, with young calves being born after eight months, during the rainy season.
Baby hippos, known as calves, can weigh anywhere from 55 to 120 pounds at birth. They need to be protected from predators, such as crocodiles and lions. Even adult male hippos are not averse to attacking calves when they enter water.
My Gorgeous Skin
Hippos can have anywhere from brown to grayish-purple color skin. However, they usually are hairless and this makes them prone to sunburn. That is the reason, hippos are adapted to produce a red color sweat that not only protects their sensitive skin from the harsh rays of the sun, it also helps to repel insets and work as an antibiotic salve.
Photo Credit: Derek Keats (CC license)
My Conservation Status
Hippos are listed as vulnerable mammals, as there has been a decline in their population over the last few years. This reduction in the number is due to illegal poaching, as hippo meat and canines are highly coveted. In addition, hippos also are facing a threat to their natural habitat, with freshwater bodies reducing in size and numbers. It is estimated, today there are anywhere from 125,000 to 148,000 hippos surviving in the wild.
What a Big Mouth
Photo Credit: Derek Keats (CC license)
Fun and Interesting Facts about Hippos
- In the wild, hippos can live as long as 45 years
- Hippos always give birth to their little ones in water
- A recent study of the hippo DNA showed that these mammals are closely related to whales and dolphins
- A hippo’s canine teeth grow throughout its life and can attain a length of 20 inches
- When a hippo calls, it is very loud. A simple call can be 115 decibels loud, which is equivalent to standing near those massive speakers that rock concerts have
- Hippos can survive up to three weeks without food and have the ability to store grass for two days in their stomachs
- If a hippo falls off to sleep while submerged, it automatically floats to the surface
- A hippo can turn quite aggressive if it feels threatened, so don’t fall for its laziness and harmless appearance!
- More people are seriously injured from an encounter with a Hippo than any other creature in Africa.
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