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Hippopotamus / Hippo

Hippopotamus amphibius

Description - Other Names - Distribution - Taxonomy

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) Silhouette

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Hippopotamus lazing in the sun © S Jansen

The Hippopotamus are the largest of the fresh water mammals. They have a very thick hide and bulky, thickset body.

Hippopotamus - 2 bulls fighting © S JansenThe hippopotamus is most at home in water during the day, where it moves gracefully through this environment and even swims when the need arises. A hippopotamus's head is adapted for a semi-aquatic life where the ears, eyes and nose are placed on top of the head and protrude out the water while the rest of the body is submerged. The ears and nose close automatically when submerged.

These well-rounded animals feed by night, leaving the water towards evening to forage on grass or small shrubs along the river banks, often covering considerable distances. Their dung is very easy to recognize, as they have the peculiar habit of 'spraying', or fanning, the dung against a shrub or tree.

Males sometimes become very aggressive and domineering, resulting in vicious and lengthy fights, the loser of which is usually forced to leave the herd. Sharp canine and incisor teeth are situated at the front of the exceptionally large, wide mouth, and males can inflict severe wounds with these tusks.

After a gestation period of 8 months, pregnant females will give birth to a single calf.

Other Names


Distribution map of the Hippopotamus
Distribution map
of the


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