25 Fun Facts about Hippos

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While no other animal in the world can be mistaken for the Hippopotamus, there are many fun facts about hippos that people aren’t aware of them. Here are the most interesting, weirdest and funniest hippo facts.

Interesting and fun Hippopotamus Facts

#1 They are referred to as the Hippo because too many people can’t spell their real name correctly! As we talking about semantics, a baby hippo is a calf, a male is a bull and a female a caw.

Interesting and fun Facts about Hippos
A female hippo and her calf

#2 The word Hippopotamus comes from the Greek and it means River (potamos) Horse (hippos). In some languages, the name has been translated to “river horse”. 

#3 Hippos are herbivores which means they only eat plant life. Due to their enormous size though many people assume that they are meat-eaters, which isn’t true. The base os its alimentation is the short grass they find on land.

#4 There are only two species of Hippos – Pygmy Hippos and Common Hippos.

#5 They are the third largest land animal in the world – only elephants and rhinoceros are bigger. They are the third heaviest animal in the world with the elephant and the white rhinos weighing more. A full-grown Hippo can weigh from 1,5 to 3 tons!

#6 Due to the fact that Hippos spend so much time in the water, they are classified as being semi-aquatic. They emerge from the water at dusk so that they can graze for food.

#7 Hippos use the water to cool their body temperature as well as to conserve energy. If they can’t find water to cool down then they will try to do so in the mud.

#8 Both mating and giving birth occur while in the water for the Hippo. Though, in pygmy hippos, mating and birth can be done in water or land.

#9 While Hippos are very territorial in the water, they freely roam on land without such conflicts.

interesting facts about hippos

#10 Many people assume that the Hippo is closely related to the pig due to their body design. However, they really aren’t related to them. Instead, they are closely related to whales and dolphins.

#11 In spite of their large size, Hippos can run up to 19 miles per hour (30 km/h) for short distances. They can run faster than most humans do. Don’t think for an instant that you can tease one and get away with it!

#12 They are considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in the world – sometimes they a dubbed as the world’s deadliest large land Mammal. These semiaquatic giants kill an estimated 500 people per year in Africa. This is because of how aggressive they are by nature. 

#13 There are approximately 125 000 to 150 000 Hippos in the wild around Africa. Zambia (about 40 000) and Tanzania (20 000 to 30 000 ) are the countries with the biggest numbers of hippos. Learn more about where they live here.

Fun Hippo facts
Pod of hippos in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

#14 A group of Hippos can be referred to as either a pod or a herd. Male Hippos are bulls, females are cows, and a baby is considered to be a calf.

#15 Hippos mark their territory by defecation. While depositing the excrements, hippos spin their tails to distribute their feces over a huge area. Those things can be distributed for dozens of meters away.

#16 There is evidence that several species of hippos have become extinct out.

#17 The hunting of Hippos for their ivory teeth and for meat continues to decrease their population. That along with their habitat being taken away are prime reasons why they are at risk of survival in the wild, mainly the pygmy hippopotamus.

#18 Hippos are able to run along the bottom of the water where they live due to the gravity of their bodies.

#19 Hippos continue to grow in size until they are about 25 years of age. They can typically live 45 to 50 years in the wild, so they are growing for about half of their life.

#20 The oldest living Hippo was named Donna and she was 61 years old. She lived in a zoo in the state of Indiana in the United States. One named Tanga that lived in Germany is believed to have lived a long time too as it was 61 years old when it died.

#21 They range from 11 to 17 feet long and 5 ft. tall at the shoulder.

#22 Sometimes you will see a reddish tint from the skin of the Hippo. This is the body’s way of producing a type of natural sunscreen for protection from the heat. When it is coming off the body it is often mistaken for blood or for sweat but it isn’t either of them.

#23 The Hippo needs to resurface every 3 – 5 minutes to breathe. The process of surfacing and breathing is automatic, and even when sleeping underwater a hippo will emerge and breathe without waking.

hippos facts - they fall asleep underwater

#24 The IUCN classified the Hippo as having vulnerable status in 2008, and it’s still considered vulnerable today.  Though the population is now stable the biggest threats to Common Hippos are habitat loss or degradation and illegal and unregulated hunting for meat and ivory.

#25 Lastly, probably the coolest or at least the weirdest hippo fact: there are wild hippos in Colombia! How?

Pablo Escobar used to keep some exotic animals on his estate and these included 4 hippos. When he was killed in 1993, the Colombian government seized all of his assets and most of his animals were transferred to zoos and aquariums, but his four hippos were left behind.
Those animals made their way into Colombia’s waterways, where they have grown in numbers. Today, between 40 and 60 of their descendants roam the landscape, according to an investigation by biologists.

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