Common Hippopotamus – Hippopotamus amphibius
Weighing approximately three tons is the Common Hippo. It is the larger of two remaining species of Hippos in the world. From the early times of Egyptian writings, the Hippo has been considered a symbol of strength and fertility in their culture. The fact that the Hippo is so protective of her young is something that they highly respected.
The majority of the body on a Common Hippo happens to be the middle section. This is where they have the thickest areas of skin. They also have short legs and a very large head. They have huge teeth but very small ears. They also have the nostrils they use for breathing located on the top of the head.
They have toes that allow them to easily move around both in the water and on land. Each foot consists of four hoofed toes. They also have webbing between each toe for simple movements in the water. In spite of the size of it, this animal is one that is able to move around with grace and ease both on land and in the water.
Based on fossil evidence, other species of Hippos lived in areas all over including Eurasia. They were also only about half of the size of the Common Hippo. Other than size though it seems that their anatomy is very much the same as it used to be. It is believed that the nostrils on top of the head though is part of evolution.
This location allows them to breath easier and without exposing all of their body to the harsh sunlight. There is plenty of speculation to go around when it comes to the evolution process of the Common Hippo. Right now there simply remains too many unanswered questions to point us in any one direction.
There is plenty of aggression to go around with the Common Hippo herds. They may be very small with just a few members or quite large. Typically, the small herds are the result of a male that recently left a larger herd to start his own. When they are a bachelor male in a herd they don’t get to mate. That is often a desire they have and so they venture off to find a place where they can do so.
The males of a herd often fight among themselves for either mating rights or for space in the water. They are extremely territorial in the water but not when they are on land. In the water they will urinate and defecate in large circles. This is done to show others that the area is theirs and they don’t intend to share it.
They are very vocal animals and use a variety of sounds to communicate with others in their herd. The females and the males stay separated from each other as much as possible. The females with young tend to form sub groups and are even known to help watch out for each other’s young when necessary.
Habitat and Distribution
You will find the Common Hippo mainly living in areas of the Eastern side of Africa. The temperatures get very hot here during the day. This is why they will be found with their bodies covered in the water. They prefer water that isn’t too deep and that has a soft bottom to it. They also like water that is clean and that isn’t moving around very much.
At night they will leave that water and go to land in search of food sources. They live in all bodies of water including lakes, rivers, and even swamps. They live in a tropical region.
Diet and Feeding Habits
The Common Hippo has a huge appetite so it needs to find lots to consume every night. It can spend about five hours foraging for foods. It will eat a variety of types of plants out there. The average full grown adult will easily consume 150 pounds of food daily. They are well known to ruin large amounts of crops that the African villagers have in place for their own survival.
For the Common Hippo, they can mate any time of the year. You will find that it is more common during the dry seasons. Only the lead male of the herd is able to mate with the females. When they are in estrus they will give off a very strong scent that attracts that male. The mating as well as the birth of the baby Common Hippo will all go on while they are in the water.
It takes about 8 months after conception for the baby to be born. They can weigh from 60 to 100 pounds at birth. A combination of milk from their mother as well as eating plants around two months of age is their diet. The Common Hippo is a great mother and will do all she can to protect her young. When she is in the water it is with her and on land it may be suckling as she moves along to find her own food.
The Common Hippo is quite feared by other animals which is why they have few predators. Sometimes though there are issues when other sources of food are scarce. Then alligators, crocodiles, hyenas, and various large cats may take a risk to take one of them down. They will typically aim for the young as an adult is too powerful for them. It can take patience though to find a young Common Hippo far enough away from its mother to strike.
The Common Hippo has a huge enemy: humans. The fear of an attack in the water that humans wish to share too makes it difficult for them to live in the same environment. Stories of the Common Hippo attacking boats and other elements with people don’t rest easily in the minds of people.
Eating Hippo meat is common for the African villagers. They may find that they are limited when it comes to other animals to hunt. Some of these villagers make money by taking exotic animal hunters on expeditions. They can even be part of the illegal poaching of them in order to remove the large ivory teeth. As a result of their environment being taken away and the dropping numbers, they are now classified as a vulnerable animal on the endangered species list.
Significant efforts are in place to educate people about Hippos. The fact that too many people don’t see it as a priority though makes it hard to get financial support or time donated for such a cause. Yet it is important to realize that these Hippos have a major role in the balance of the ecosystems where they live.