Hippopotamus

There are 2 kinds of hippos.
They live on land and in the water.
They can stay under the water for a long time.
A baby hippo is a calf.
Hippos live in Africa.

A young hippopotamus is called a calf. Its father is a bull and its mother is a cow. A group of hippos is called a bloat of hippos.

There are two species, or kinds, of hippopotamus: the common or river hippopotamus and the pygmy hippopotamus. The common hippopotamus weighs about 3 tonnes (male) and 1.5 tonnes (female). The pygmy hippopotamus is much smaller, standing at less than 1 metre high at the shoulder.

Habitat
The habitat of the common hippopotamus is
grassland areas where there is permanent still water, not too deep and without many rocks at the bottom of the pool.

 The habitat of the pygmy hippopotamus is in forests in western Africa, near swampy areas. They live alone or in pairs. Like the common hippopotamus, they feed at night. They eat grass, leaves and fruit. Not a great deal is known about these rare animals.

Amphibious animals
Hippopotamus live both on land and in the water, which means they are amphibious. Underwater, they run or walk along the bottom, with their ears pressed down flat and their nostrils clamped shut by tiny muscles. Their heart rate slows down so they can stay underwater longer. They generally come up for air every 6 or 7 minutes, but they can stay under for about 30 minutes.

Physical features
The hippopotamus does not sweat, and when out of the water for a while, their skin sometimes oozes a pinkish, oily liquid. Some people think this is blood but it is not. This liquid prevents the skin from drying out and acts as a sunscreen. Hippos have a thin skin that easily dries out. Under the skin they have a thick layer of fat, which helps keep them warm in the water. Eyes, ears and nostrils are on the top part of the head so that they can float in the water and see, hear and breathe easily.

Behaviour
The common hippopotamus comes out of water at night to feed on grass, always following the same paths.They generally return to the water at sunrise to spend the morning dozing. They may lie on the banks to sunbake if it is not too hot or windy. On land they can run at about 30 kilometres an hour if they have to, but only for a short distance.

Common hippopotamus groups vary in size. In a large pool, a group could be as large as 60. Males are very territorial. Hippopotamus are very aggressive animals and easily enraged. They 'yawn' more and more as they get angrier, showing their big teeth.

Life Cycle
A female hippopotamus gives birth to a single calf, very rarely twins, about 8 months after mating with a male. Hippopotamus calves are born on land or in shallow water, and they generally suckle milk from their mothers while underwater. The calves of the herd play together. In the water, young ones are often seen resting their heads, or standing, on an adult's back, usually their mother's, because the effort to keep afloat tires them too much. Until a calf is strong enough to walk far, the mother leaves it with other females to babysit when she goes to feed.

Conservation status
The common hippopotamus is vulnerable,(becoming endangered) because its habitat is reduced. Hippopotamus are hunted illegally for meat, and also for their ivory teeth.

The pygmy hippopotamus is endangered, mainly because of the heavy clearing of forest areas.

 

 Pygmy hippopotamus, Photo E.Golding

Find out more about the common hippopotamus here
http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-hippopotamus.html
Find out more about the pygmy hippopotamus here
http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/learning/animals/mammals/pygmy-hippo

Listen to common hippos in the water here


Acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Hippopotamus (2006). [Online], Available: www.kidcyber.com.au

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Updated December 2006