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Young Hippopotamus
Young Hippopotamus
© www.pgoimages.com
Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

Hippopotamus Range Map (Africa)
Hippopotamus Range Map (Africa)
Latin Name Hippopotamus amphibius
Conservation Status Vulnerable
Location Africa
Colour Grey/Brown
Length 2.7 - 3.5 m (9 - 11.5 ft)
Tail Approx. 56 cm (22 inches)
Weight 1.4 - 3.2 tonnes
(1.4 - 3.2 tons)
Life Expectancy 45 Yrs (Wild)
49 Yrs (In Captivity)

Main Characteristics

Hippopotamuses are large, semi-aquatic mammals. They have a body length between 2.7 and 3.5 m (9 - 11.5 ft), a tail length of approximately 56 cms (22 inches) and they weigh between 1.4 and 3.2 tonnes (1.4 - 3.2 tons).

They are large, heavy bodied animals that have short, stumpy legs with webbed toes. They have a very large head with huge jaws that have a gape of 150 degrees and they contain large, sharp teeth. Their tail is short and has a tuft on the end and their bodies are almost hairless.

The nostrils, eyes and ears of Hippopotamuses are all situated on the top of their head. This is to enable them to remain almost fully submerged, but still be able to breathe and remain aware of their surroundings. When they dive underwater they are able to close their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering them.

Hippopotamuses are coloured grey/brown but the underpart of their skin is pinkish in colour. Their skin is made up of a thin outer layer that dries out quickly and is sensitive to the bites of pests while the inner layer is up to 3.5 cms (1.5 inches) thick and is made from a dense mat of fibres that are very strong.

To prevent their skin from cracking they have to moisten it regularly in water or mud and they also have special mucus producing skin glands. These glands excrete a pink fluid that helps to keep their skin moist and helps prevent against infection and sunburn.

Hippopotamuses are able to swim and walk underwater and they are very fast runners on land. Adults can remain underwater for more than five minutes at a time and they are able to sleep under water, rising to the surface to breathe then submerging again without waking up.

Hippopotamuses communicate with each other using deep rumbles and grunting sounds.


Hippopotamuses are found in west, central, east and southern Africa. They spend their days wallowing in rivers and lakes and during the night they graze on grasslands.

During the day the females and their young stay in family groups consisting of between 10 and 20 individuals, but at night they are solitary and graze on their own. They occupy a range of a dominant male, who marks his territory by spinning his tail around scattering dung. The dominant male allows other males into his territory as long as they are submissive and do not try to mate with any of the females.


The diet of a Hippopotamus consists of grass. They will eat approximately 40 Kgs (88 lbs) of grass per night. This isn't a lot for an animal of their size, but its enough for them to lead their energy efficient lifestyle.


After a gestation period of 240 days, 1 calf is born. At birth the calf weighs between 25 and 45 Kgs (55 - 99 lbs) and mothers are very protective of their young. When they reach 6 - 8 months old they are weaned but they will stay with their mother for a further 5 - 8 years.

Hippopotamuses breed at any time during the year and they often mate and give birth submerged in water. Adult females will first give birth when they are approximately 10 years of age, then every 2 - 3 years after.


Humans are the main threat to adult Hippos but young Hippos can be attacked by lions and crocodiles.


There are no subspecies of Hippopotamus.

Interesting Facts

The name Hippopotamus comes from the ancient greek meaning "river horse"

Hippopotamus is often shortened to Hippo.

Hippopotami is also accepted as the plural for Hippopotamus.

Hippos have been known to attack humans if they feel under threat.

A group of Hippos is known as a pod, herd, school or bloat.

An estimate of their running speed on land is between 30 and 50 Km/Hr (18 - 31 mph) but they can only maintain this for a few hundred metres.

The Hippopotamus is one of only two extant species in the hippopotamidae family, the other being the much smaller pygmy hippopotamus.

Similar Animals

Pygmy Hippopotamus


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