Creature Feature - The Hippopotamus
We’re heading to the Africa to get the low down on one of the world’s largest and heaviest animals - the hippopotamus!
A group of hippos is led by one large male. The other members are the females, their young and a few young adult males. The leader of the group keeps control of his mating territory by fighting off rivals. When a male hippo in the group challenges him, the leader opens his enormous mouth, revealing his huge teeth. There could be trouble!
Often the display is enough to make the challenging hippopotamus back off. But sometimes these fearsome creatures will fight aggressively, leading to deep wounds and even death.
A family group of hippos spends most of the day in the water. Staying submerged helps a hippo stay cool in the hot tropical climate where it lives.
The hippo's nose, ears, and eyes are on the top of its head, and they protrude from the water while the rest of its head and its body lie beneath the surface. This way, it can breathe, see and hear while its body is submerged!
And check this out, gang - when a hippo sinks completely underwater, its nose and ears automatically close so that no water seeps in. Cool!
These super-strong beasts are also excellent swimmers, and can hold their breath for about five minutes. They can even walk along the bottoms of rivers and lakes.
At dusk, hippos leave their watery daytime spot, lumber onto land, and walk as far as 8km from the water to graze on short grass, their main food. Grazing until dawn, a hippo may eat up to 68kg of grass a night. Yikes!
Before sunrise they return to a river or lake to avoid the heat of the sun.
TEN FAST FACTS!
1. The scientific name for the common hippo is Hippopotamus amphibious.
2. 'Hippopotamus' comes from two Greek words that mean river horse.
3. Hippos' toes are webbed, which helps them paddle through the water.
4. A hippo is 4 to 5 metres long and weighs from 2,300 to 3,600 kilograms.
5. Two tusks, or canine teeth, in the hippo's lower jaw can grow more than 30 centimeters long!
6. Hippos eat only vegetation (grasses and water plants).
7. Baby hippos are born underwater. They can swim almost from the moment they're born!
8. Hippos can live to be more than 40 years old in the wild.
9. Lions, crocodiles, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs often kill baby hippos, but adult hippos are rarely attacked.
10. People used to think that hippos sweat blood. In truth, hippos' sweat has an oily red pigment in it (it's not blood!)
Adapted from text by Catherine D. Hughes