Fascinating Facts about the Great Hippopotamus

Found in almost all freshwater lakes in Kenya, the Hippo continues to be a major site, especially for large animal lovers. Large populations of hippos can be found in Lake Naivasha, Lake Victoria and Lake Baringo. Here are a few interesting facts on the humongous mammals.

Relatives of whales and dolphins

As much as hippos are now land animals, their DNA and extensive scientific research show that the animals share a common ancestor with whales. It is believed that the hippos were fully water mammals before they evolved and developed legs that enabled them to roam the land.

They are amphibious

Hippos, like frogs, are amphibious animals. This means that they are able to live in water and on land.

They cannot swim

As much as hippos spend almost all day in the water, they cannot in fact swim. Neither can they float. Most hippos find spots in lakes and riverbeds deep enough to allow them to stand but still have part of their heads outside water. When they are completely submerged, they are often walking at the lake or riverbed before they can push themselves up to the water surface for air. For this reason, hippos tend to keep close to the shallow points of the water body.

They can stay 5 minutes without breathing

Adult hippos can stay up to five minutes without breathing while younger ones can go up to 3 minutes. During their time in the water, they have their nostrils and ears shut by a membrane so that water cannot enter into their heads.

They are night feeders

Even with their large sizes, hippos feed only at night. They often come out of the water at sunset and start grazing individually before returning to the water come sunrise. They are able to stay on land at night thanks to the cooler temperatures. The water keeps their skin moist and cool during the day.

They mate and give birth in water

Hippos both breed and give birth when in water. A hippo’s gestation period is 8 months, resulting to a single calf. The mother secludes herself when it is time to give birth and only re-joins the herd after 14 days. Newborn calves can only hold their breath for less than a minute so the mother has to push it to the surface of the water immediately after birth.

They are social

Hippos live in herds while in water but separate when it is time to feed. In the water herds, there is always one dominant male who acts as leader and protector of the rest. The herd can be between ten and a hundred individuals. The members are usually female but young males can stay as long as they are submissive to the king.

They are huge

An adult male hippo can weigh up to 2000 kilograms while an adult female can weigh up to 1700kilos. They are the largest land mammals after the elephants and white rhinos. A hippo can be sometimes bigger than black rhino.

They live long

On average, a hippo in the world can live up to 45 years. In captivity, however, the animals can exceed 60 years.

They are aggressive, dangerous and untameable

Hippos are seen to have a high temper. They easily get agitated and although they rarely fight, when they do. Several casualties occur. Most infant hippos have died by being caught up between adult fights. Hippos also kill up to five hundred people a year in Africa alone. For example, in Lake Baringo and Lake Naivasha, hippos have overturned tens of boats. Fishermen also get mauled and killed whenever they come in contact with the animals. In South Africa, a hippo named Humphrey ended up killing his owner who kept him as a pet for over five years. They have proven to be dangerous and untameable.