12 Fascinating Facts to Know About The Mighty Hippos of Africa

12 Facts About The Most Dangerous Animal In Africa, The Hippo, Also Called The River Horse.

Hippos of Africa, also called river horses, are large animals. They are the third largest living land animals in Africa. First comes the African elephants, then the elusive rhinos and the hippos are in third place. The Latin word hippopotamus comes from the Greek word hippopotamos which means “river horse”. Hippos cannot swim as they are too dense to float, but instead they sink and walk along the lakes and riverbeds. Hippos habitat is lakes and rivers, as they spend most of the day in the water. During the night, they leave the cooling water, walking long distances to find food on land. When at night a hippo is grazing beside your tent/accommodation, you can hear the animal chewing. A funny sound to listen to.

A cute hippo photo displaying a male hippo smiling! Is it smiling? Is the animal friendly? Appearances are deceiving. What looks like a portly and amiable animal is, in fact, one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.

How Many Species Of Hippopotamuses Exist?

There are two species of hippopotamids: The common river hippo, Hippopotamus amphibious, and the pygmy hippo, Choeropsis liberiensis. The pygmy hippopotamus is about the half size of the common hippo.

Where Do The 2 Species Live?

The pygmy hippos live only in West Africa, mainly in Liberia, as well as the Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Whereas the common hippopotamus animal lives in over 30 African countries.

Are Hippos Mammals?

Hippos are semi-aquatic mammals. The Class is mammalia, the order Cetartiodactyla and belongs to the family Hippopotamide. The hippo animal’s scientific name is Hippopotamus amphibius.

Are Hippos Nice And Friendly?

As long as you keep your distance, they can be friendly. Once you enter their territory, you become a threat to the animals and the wild. That can make the animals angry, aggressive and maybe they will charge you. Hippos are friendly with other wild animals, like elephants and buffalos, simply because they are grass eaters. Read about fun elephant facts as well.

Are Hippos Angry Animals?

Certainly not, as long as they have their peace and no threat passes into their territory. Male hippos warn the enemy/rivals with a wide open mouth, displaying their large curved canines/teeth. As well, they are splashing lots of water with loud grunts. As long as you keep a safe distance, the hippos will be friendly.

2 male hippos are fighting on a river channel in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Lots of splashing water and loud grunts were involved during the fight. That is how we know the wild hippos of Africa.

Can Hippopotamuses Of Africa Be Dangerous?

Hippos of Africa are the most dangerous animals. The wild animals are unpredictable, aggressive when an intruder comes into their territory, which they defend, of course. When they feel threatened, they will attack the animal or human. As a territorial wild animal, they want to protect their turf and pod/family.

Are Hippos Afraid?

These beautiful animals feel no fear, they rather feel threatened by intruders or predators. Since they have excellent fighting abilities, massive bodies, as well as their aggressiveness. Babies and younger hippos have crocodiles as enemies when they are not in protection from adults. Hippopotamuses, with their size, weight, and large teeth, indeed they have all resources to protect themselves and youngsters. But there are some animals which can kill them. These are the lions, hyenas and, of course, crocodiles. Lion prides stalk sometimes a hippo. When they accomplished their kill, they, share their prey with the lion pride. Hyenas have great hunting skills for the hippos of Africa.

A Lioness is staring intensely into the camera. Black and white lion photo print. (copyright Anette Mossbacher)

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An African wildlife images in color features an elephant that walks through a dry riverbed. (copyright Anette Mossbacher)

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What Is The Hippopotamuses Habitat?

Well, they live in rivers and lakes, as well as in large or according to their size man made waterholes. You will find them in the sub-Saharan Africa. They adapted to live in water, as we all know. You see often their head above the water surface to breathe or to check you out! Hippos also sleep underwater, holding their breath up to 5 minutes. When they sleep underwater, they have an “inbuilt” reflex which let them come to the water surface to breathe and sink down again. All without waking up, amazing. African hippos spend most of their time in the water, their habitat, to stay cool.

Are Hippos Living In South America?

Oh yes, you can find hippopotamuses animals in South America, Colombia. As the drug baron, Pablo Escobar brought hippos of Africa to Colombia. When he was captured, the animals escaped from his property. By now, the wild animals are a problem for Colombia, as the hippopotamuses have no natural predators, like lions, hyenas in Africa. The population grew up to around 100+ of animals in the wild. While living in rivers hippos can affect the biodiversity, because their faeces can change the composition of the rivers. That also can affect the natural habitat of capybaras and manatees.

What Is The Hippo’s Weight?

I would say the hippos weight is heavy. 😀 According to their size, an adult hippo male animal can weight up to 3,200 kilograms / 7055 pounds (3.52 tons, as heavy as 3 little cars). African male hippo can grow up to 5 meters / 16.5 feet long and 1,6 meters / 5.2 feet tall. Hippopotamuses are considered the third largest animals right after the elephant and elusive rhino in Africa.

How Are Hippos Feet Called?

Their feet are called hooves. The reason is as they look more like nails. The animal’s feet are not that much hoofed like in other hoofed mammals. Hippopotamuses feet are as well webbed, as they cannot swim! Right, they cannot swim, but with their webbed feet, they can submerge in the water or cover themselves with mud. A mud bath is always welcome.

Do Hippos Talk To Each Other?

I have to laugh. Oh yes, loud and noisy they can talk. Chatterboxes they are. It always seems they have a lot to talk about. I assume we all know how the ‘hippo chat’ sounds. If not, it sounds like laughing with a big deep bass behind it. The deepest you can imagine, It seems that this hippo voice brings always a smile on people’s faces on African safaris. It sounds funny, as well as relaxing. Maybe a bit like Brown noise, or was it White noise to sleep well? Both noises, actually.

That’s a powerful hippo male giving us the angry animal look! Or is it only curiosity? I was not too close when I took his image; I used a long lens, 600mm! Safety comes first.

How To Stay Safe Around Hippos?

  • Always keep a safe distance. Hippos can run up to 40km/h / 24.4 miles/h, which is faster that we humans can run. So always keep a safe distance.
  • Do not get too close to hippos. (I use long lenses when I take hippo pictures.)
  • So if you would like to have close-up photos of hippos, use long lenses and not your mobile phone! Better to be safe than sorry.
  • When you come across a well-worn hippo path, be sensible and do not walk along it or block it. Hippopotamuses also feed sometimes during the daylight hours and you do not want to come between the hippo and its escape way back to water!
  • Always adhere to the park rules and follow what your guide tells you. It is for your own safety, and not to nag on you. When you are doing a self-drive safari, please stay in your vehicle, follow the park rules. Do not chase the wild animals, or drive on a hippo/elephant path. Keep a safe distance.
  • Park rules are there to keep you and the wild animals safe. They are in place for your protection as well for the wild animals protection. Thank you for reading.
Black and white picture of an elephant that walks along the Zambezi river. The wild animal is beautifully framed by the surrounding trees. (copyright Anette Mossbacher)

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