What is a Hippopotamus?

What comes to your mind, when you think of a Hippopotamus! They look ambiguously ludicrous because of their body structure, the depressing face, puffed-up bellies, stumpy legs, popped-up eyes, and stout nose. These make you feel they are gentle animals and they care about their own work. However, remember, looks can be decisive.

What is a Hippopotamus?

In ancient Greek, they were commonly known as the River Horse and are considered one of the most dangerous creatures in the world. The more you explore and learn about them the more you will be familiar with the real-life hippos facts.

Here we will introduce the hippo in front of you along with some interesting facts that will help you to explore the most dangerous animal and third largest land animal in the world. Go through the guide before meeting and greeting the hippos.

Even though hippo features a gigantic size, they are the most underrated animals. They are courageous but bad-tempered mammals and named as the largest animals in Africa. In fact, they are hugely responsible for a greater number of human deaths especially in Africa as compared to the other hunters.

Anatomy of Hippopotamus

Primarily the hippopotamus is the semi-aquatic animal, who features a barrel-shaped body, short tail, mammoth head, stumpy legs to lower down the body weight underwater, eyes, nose, and ears right on top of their head and last but not the least a shadowy or muddy-brown hairless skin. Their skin dries easily thus most of the time, they like to stay inside water or wallow in mud ponds.

They feature a huge nose and a mouth that can open up to 4 feet whereas the jaw is also quite large. It houses a large masseter and the digastric muscle and because of those, a hippo can open its mouth up to 180 degrees. Usually, the bite forces of the hippos are around 8100 Newtons, so you can imagine the potency. This is the reason it comes under most dangerous animals.

They also have canine teeth with a length of 50 to 72 cm whereas the incisors are 40 cm length. Remember the teeth that a hippo possessesa are not meant for eating or chewing, they are exclusively for fighting and protecting themselves. Moreover, a male features a larger tooth than the females and the species have the largest teeth among all the land animals.

On the other hand, the male hippos have unusual genitals along with partially descendent testicles without any scrotum, so they feel it invisible.

Where do hippos live?

Sub-Saharan Africa was the first home of hippos for many years, but there is a gradual decline in their numbers due to habitat damage and regular hunting. Now, you can find the hippos mostly in African countries and other countries. These countries include South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Whereas, Sub-Saharan Africa is the home to hippos. These are at the eastern region of the continent.

Hippos live in the home around lakes, swamps, and rivers. They stay under abundant water and spend most of their time underwater to keep their skin humid and cool. They can stay in water for up to 16 hours without difficulty.

Biological Significance of Hippopotamus

Loudest Animal

The hippopotamus is capable of using subsonic vocalizations for communicating with each other. They are capable of snorting at 115 dB. So undoubtedly, they are surely in the category of loudest animals in the world.

Social Animal

They are also social animals and like to move in groups. A group of hippos is known as bloats or schools. This group mostly comprises of 10 to 30 members. A school of hippos includes females and males that usually controlled by a dominating male as similar to other mammals.

The leader is usually quite protective to their group. They display their long and curved canines to put off dangerous situations and attacks of predators. They also showcase hostile spatters and strident sounds when he feels a dangerous situation or sense any attack of predators.


The adult Hippos are on an average 5 feet tall and 11 feet in length, they weigh in between 3300 lbs to 7000 lbs. On the other hand, a baby hippo usually weighs 60 to 110 lbs.


They are quite aggressive and seem dangerous because of large teeth and tusks. They largely fight against the threat and even attack humans using their weapons.

Here comes an interesting fact on hippos! If you think they are the great swimmers, then you are wrong. Generally, they cannot swim, they just float through the water.

 Breathing Habit

Hippos are capable of holding their breath while staying in water up to five minutes and keep their nostrils and ears closed to get rid of water. Because of their habitat hippos like to spend most of their time in rivers and due to their anatomy, they can see everything and breathe properly-being in water.

 Hippos Sweat

While being under the blistering heat they sweat an oily red and orange substance to protect their skin through the pores mainly in summer. This is known as blood sweat and they do not actually sweat blood as per the belief, but a natural sunscreen that generates automatically from their skin using UV rays from the sun.

The red and orange pigments comprise hipposudoric acid and non-hipposudoric acid and both are highly acidic in nature. Both acids generate from hippo sweat are the reason to keep hippos away from any kind of disease-causing bacteria.

Maturity and Life Expectancy of Hippos

At an age of 5 to 7 years, the hippo attains its maturity. The average life expectancy of hippos is around 40 years, but in captivity, the lifespan tends to extend up to 50 years.

What do hippos eat?

If you quite concerned about what do hippos eat! Then here is the answer. The hippos are herbivores and depend mostly on grass. Now the interesting thing is that they can guzzle down around 35 Kg of grass in one night.

They become more active in the night especially when they come out for searching food and walk down up to 6 miles. They also eat fruits as a hippo diet while searching for food at night and in the case of food scarcity, they can store food inside their stomach for three weeks without eating.

According to research, the hippos eat 1 to 1.5 percent of their total body weight every day. They have a stomach comprises of four chambers where the enzyme inside it breaks down the grasses and its cellulose for better digestion.


The female hippos known as cows usually give birth in an interval of two years while the gestation period lasts for eight months. During the reproduction in hippos, the female hippo or a calf usually weigh around 100 lbs during birth.

At birth, a calf or baby hippo weight around 50 to 110 lbs. For the first eight months, most of the time, the mother hippo nurtures its baby on land and some time on the water. All the hippos irrespective of age have the capability to close their nose and ears to suppress water.

Both the mother and baby hippo join the school led by a dominant male hippo for safety and protection against the predators right after the birth.


In general, they are the most night-time mammals and like to stay most of the day sleeping in water. They are not only the sweetest but also become dangerous if find anything suspicious.

Although they have sensitive skin, their body feature allows them to maintain saturation and humidity for protecting their skin from hot African summer. They usually spend 80 percent of their life in the water and the baby hippos spend their time playing with water.

The adult hippos only come out of water for searching for food and spend the rest of the time sleeping.  A hippo is regarded as the most dangerous land animal who hunts on their foot.

Types of Hippopotamus

The amphibious animal Hippopotamus lives a semi aquatic life and one of the largest animals after the elephants and rhinos. There are two hippo species in the world. These are the common hippopotamus and the Pygmy hippopotamus. They reside in Africa and come under the family Hippopotamidae.

Down the years, there were millions of hippo types. Out of them, some were like the Pygmy and some were in between the size of a common hippo and Pigmy hippo. Countries like Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and as far as England were the hippo habitat for many years.

However, due to climatic changes and the evolution of human territory diminish their existence. Now, they live only across Africa. They are the kin of some cetaceans such as whales and dolphins but not the pigs.

1. Common Hippopotamus

The common hippopotamus is larger than the pygmy hippopotamus to some extent. They live inside lakes and rivers. Mostly they prefer slow-moving water bodies so that they can float all through the day. A common hippopotamus weighs in between 3000 to 6000 lbs.

They feature brown or grey hairless skin. Their eyes and nostrils are projected right above their head so that they can breathe and see easily being in the water. For fighting against rivals and predators, they have wide mouths and razor-sharp canines.

The common hippos stay in a group of 20 to 200 hippos along with one dominant male and ten female hippos to take care of baby hippos. Common hippopotamuses are herbivores and dependent on the grass. At present, there are 125,000 to 148,000 common hippos all across sub-Saharan Africa that consist of 29 countries.

2. Pigmy Hippopotamus

The pygmy hippos are quite similar to common hippos. They feature a grey or brownish hairless body, larger body, and pointed canines to name a few. They are also nocturnal animals and come out in search of food. However, the Pygmy hippos are comparatively tinier than the common hippopotamus. They weigh in between 397 to 606 lbs. On the other hand, alike the common hippos, they cannot project their eyes and nostrils out of water.

They mostly reside in damp locations as well as in forests and West Africa as their common habitat. Such hippos are unsocial and like to live in pairs. You will find them as breeding pairs or a mother and descendants. A Pigmy hippo can have babies in water as well as land. Classified as one of the rare species in the world, Pigmy Hippos estimated population is quite less than 3000.


Hippopotamus, the third-largest animal on the land, is an amphibious and herbivores animal that mostly lives in the water. It spends most of the time in the water, even sleeps in the water for long hours. Still, it is the most dangerous animal for humans. This is because it attacks immediately when it feels anything suspicious. Hippo bites are more powerful and harmful then bite of a lion.

Hippopotamus mostly searches for the food at night and can also live without eating for three weeks. They mostly move in groups.

There are many amazing facts about hippos that need to know and knowing that can clear mis-concepts about them such as they are similar to dolphins and whales while most of the people think they are like pigs.