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Eight Things You Should Know About the Hippopotamus

It’s easy to think of hippos as cute, clumsy, and lovable from the way they’re often depicted in cartoons and storybooks, but they are among Africa’s largest and most fearsome animals that comprise Africa’s wildlife. Here are eight things you may not know about these not-so-gentle giants.

Hippos Aren’t Just Big; They’re Huge

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According to Odd Stuff Magazine, the average hippo is between 10 to 16 feet long. Live Science notes that females weigh about 3,000 pounds on average, while males can weigh between 3,500 to 9,900 pounds. That’s nearly 5 tons.

Hippos Know How to Stay Cool

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The word “hippopotamus” comes from Greek, meaning “river horse.” The hippo spends up to 16 hours per day in the water. Staying in the water helps hippos maintain their body temperature and protects them from the intense African heat.

The Life Aquatic

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Because they spend so much time in the water, hippos become adept swimmers at a very early age. They can submerge and hold their breath under water for up to five minutes.

No Need for Sunscreen

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Unlike their elephant cousins, the hippo has natural protection from sunburns. National Geographic explains that their skin secretes an oil that acts as a natural sunscreen and moisturizer.

They Go Out Every Night

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Come sundown, hippos leave the river and travel up to six miles inland to graze. They spend the night feasting and return to the river at sunrise the following morning.

A High-Fiber Diet

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Hippos typically consume approximately 80 pounds of grass each night. Although these creatures are primarily vegetarian, they have been known to feast on the flesh of crocodiles and other animals.

Don’t Get Too Close

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In the water and on land, hippos spook easily, have no fear of humans and charge without hesitating. Despite their size, they are deceptively fast and agile. Hippos are responsible for approximately 3,000 human deaths annually, warns Animal Planet, making them more deadly to humans than lions.

Hippo Moms Take Two-Week Maternity Leaves

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Expectant moms leave the pod to give birth in solitude to protect their young calf from being trampled or gored by the rest of the herd. They also use this time to develop a bond so that the calf can stand a chance of surviving. Even though the baby calf weighs about 100 pounds at birth, both mom and calf face many perils.

Check out this video to watch a hippo give birth and learn of the dangers the two face on their journey back to the pod.

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