Masai Mara, Kenya
IUCN status : Vulnerable
The name Hippopotamus literally means “River Horse”. It is the third largest land mammal after Elephant and Rhinoceros and weighs up to 4 tons. Surprisingly Hippos cannot swim. They just walk on the surface beneath the water. Although hippos can hold their breath for approximately seven minutes, they resurface every 3 – 5mins to breathe. The process of surfacing and breathing is automatic, and even a hippo sleeping underwater will rise and breathe without waking. Both reproduction and birth occur in the water. Hippo calves weigh approximately 45kg at birth and can suckle on land or underwater by closing their ears and nostrils. Hippos usually come out of the water for four to five hours at night to graze and can cover up to 10km in this time. Their diet consists of grass and they graze using muscular lips. They eat up to 40 kg of grass per day which is minuscule compared to their size and weight. Despite its stocky shape and short legs, it can easily outrun most humans with a top speed of 30 kmph.
Hippos bask on the shoreline and secrete an oily red substance, which gave rise to the myth that they sweat blood. The liquid is actually a skin moistener and sunblock that may also provide protection against germs.
Hippopotamus is one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and is often regarded as the most dangerous animal. It is highly aggressive, particularly if you get between it and the water. Their canine teeth (sharp teeth) are used for fighting. An open mouth is not a yawn but rather assign to warn you off. You will only see hippo ‘yawning’ while in the water because they are only territorial while in the water. A hippo can open its mouth to full 150 degrees.
The aggressive nature of Hippos may make them appear to be carnivores. But they are not. Their 40 inch long canines are meant only for fighting and defensive purposes. They are purely herbivores. In fact they are the largest even towed ungulate in the world. Their stomach is not designed to digest animals, not even fish or insects. Their closest living relatives are whales from whom they diverged about 55 million years ago. Average lifespan of a Hippo is 40 years.