Hippopotamus

Scientific Name: Hippopotamus amphibious
Irish Name: Dobhareach
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Hippos are one of the heaviest animals on earth and can weigh up to three and a half tonnes! Hippos are large, mammals with brown grey skin. They have a barrel shaped torso, little hair, wide mouths and large tusks. They spend a lot of their time in the water but are actually very agile on land and can run to speeds of up to 30km/hr.

Hippopotamus

Hippos are one of the heaviest animals on earth and can weigh up to three and a half tonnes! Hippos are large, mammals with brown grey skin. They have a barrel shaped torso, little hair, wide mouths and large tusks. They spend a lot of their time in the water but are actually very agile on land and can run to speeds of up to 30km/hr.

General Information

Where do they live? (Natural habitat)

Hippos live on land (mainly when feeding), in freshwater when inland and in marine habitats in coastal areas of eastern, central and southern sub-Saharan Africa.

How long do they live?

40-50 years wild, 60 years in zoos.

What do they eat?

Hippos have a healthy and mostly herbivorous appetite. Adults eat about 35 kg of grass each night, travelling up to 10 km in a night to get their fill. They also eat fruit that they find during their nightly scavenging. If food is scarce, hippos can store food in their stomachs and go up to three weeks without eating.

Although hippos were long believed to be exclusively herbivorous, 2015 study published in the journal Mammal Review found that hippos occasionally feed on the carcasses of animals, including other hippos.

Group name

A group of hippos is called a herd, or school when only females and juveniles are present.

Zoo location

African Plains

Closest related species / sister species

The pygmy hippo is in the same family, Hippopotamidae. Also related to cetaceans (whales, dolphins etc.).

Animal class

Mammalia

Animal order

Cetartiodactyla

Fun facts

Underwater grunts

Hippos mostly make sounds by grunting and bellowing, sounds which can be made on land or in water. They are the only animals that can do this!

Fake swimmers

Hippos can't swim or float, they mainly walk along the water bed and are never really seen in deep water.

River horse

The name hippopotamus derives from the meaning "river horse" in ancient Greek .

Skincare enthusiasts

They secrete an oily red substance called "blood sweat" through the skin which is thought to act as sun cream, moisturiser and antibiotic.

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Family Life

Hippos are gregarious animals which live in social communities in the water, however no social interactions are seen when feeding at night, except for "schools" of females and juveniles. Males hold territories during the day along the waters edge to gain mating rights with the females and will fight to keep it. Young stay feeding from their mother for around 18 months and females tend to have young every 2-3 years.

Baby name

Calf

Gestation period

10-11 months

Number of young at birth

Usually 1

Weight at birth

Most hippos are born weighing around 40kg

Age at maturity

Hippos usually reach maturity around 3.5 years of age.

Size male adult

Adult males weigh approximately 3.5 tonnes (3500kgs) and stand between 150-165 cm tall.

Size female adult

Female adults weigh approximately 1.5 tonnes (1,500kgs) and are also between 150-165 cm tall.

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Conservation

Vulnerable

The hippopotamus is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation in Nature

Current population estimate

Estimated between 115,000 and 130,000.

Threats

Hippos are threatened by habitat loss from residential and commercial developments, as well as aquaculture and agriculture; climate change (severe droughts); habitat modification (e.g. dams); poaching; human disturbance (e.g. war, civil unrest).

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FAQs

  • What do hippopotamus eat?

    Hippos eat mainly grass along the shorelines of water where they spend most of the day.

  • How much does a hippopotamus weigh?

    Usually between 1.5 tonnes (female) and 3.5 tonnes (male).

  • What sound does a hippopotamus make?

    Mostly grunts and bellow sounds which can be made on land or in water – the only animals that can do this!

  • What does hippopotamus mean?

    In Greek, it means “river horse”.

  • Where do hippopotamus live?

    In southern, eastern and central sub-Saharan Africa in swamps, freshwater and marine habitats.

  • How long can a hippopotamus stay under water?

    Hippos can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes.

  • What is a baby hippopotamus called?

    A calf

  • What is the gestation period of a hippopotamus?

    10-11 months

  • Do hippopotamus eat meat?

    Hippos have a healthy and mostly herbivorous appetite, mainly made up of grass.

    Hippos were long believed to be exclusively herbivorous but a 2015 study published in the journal Mammal Review found that hippos occasionally feed on the carcasses of animals, including other hippos.

  • What is a group of hippopotamus called?

    A group of hippos is called a herd, or school when only females and juveniles are present.

  • How many teeth does a hippopotamus have?

    Hippos have approximately 32 teeth.

  • How many toes does a hippopotamus have?

    Hippos have four toes, they are even-toed ungulates.

  • How tall is a hippopotamus?

    Hippos can vary in length, anything from 209cm to 505cm! They are usually between 150- 165cm tall.

  • Where do hippopotamus live in Africa?

    Hippos live in eastern, Central and southern sub-saharan Africa.

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