The name hippopotamus means “river horse”. The hippopotamus is an extremely large creature with a round body, short legs, and a big, broad head. They are brownish gray on top and a light pink color underneath. The hippopotamus has its ears, nose, and eyes positioned on the top of its head so it can remain submerged and still keep track of what is going on around it. Hippopotamuses spend most of the day in the water and secrete a pink, oily substance that acts as a sunscreen. When it submerges it closed its nostrils and its ears so water won’t get in. The hippopotamus is very buoyant and has no trouble getting around underwater. A hippopotamus can stay underwater for about 15 minutes. It is a toss up whether the hippopotamus is the second largest land animal (it could be the rhinoceros instead.)
The hippopotamus is herbivorous. They come out of the water at night to graze and can eat up to 100 pounds of vegetation in one night. Hippopotamuses will often travel up to six miles from their watering hole to find something to eat.
The hippopotamus is found in West and East Central Africa. They inhabit the rivers and lakes throughout the grassland portions of this area.
Calves are in danger from lions, hyenas, and crocodiles. The adult hippopotamus is usually too much for most predators to handle.
Hippopotamuses live in groups of 15 or more animals. These groups are primarily females and their young headed up by a dominant male. There may also be some inferior males in these groups. The hippopotamus is territorial and once it establishes its territory it will attempt to chase off any interlopers. When a hippopotamus opens its mouth very wide it may be trying to scare a potential rival away by showing off its canine teeth. These teeth can be 20 inches long. During a fight, male hippopotamuses will ram each other with their mouths open using there heads as sledgehammers, which brings their canines into play, and using their lower jaw to throw water at each other.
Birth & Offspring
Hippopotamuses give birth to one calf after an 8-month gestation period. A female hippopotamus will go off by herself to have her baby. She will then stay away from the herd for anywhere from 10 to 44 days. The baby hippopotamus is born alive and underwater. Its first act is to swim to the surface so it can breath. The mother hippopotamus takes care of her calf, nursing it underwater and occasionally giving it a ride on her back. Female hippopotamuses will also watch over groups of calves.
The hippopotamus has excellent hearing, sight, and smell.