5 Amazing Facts about the Hippopotamus

Hippopotamuses are the two-ton, amphibious tanks of Africa.

As the third largest land mammal on Earth (elephants first, rhinos second) these rotund, water-loving behemoths can grow the length of an adult giraffe and can weigh over twice the size of an average sedan. Often found lounging in mud baths of their own refuse, hippos are not to be messed with, even with those cute legs.

The hippopotamus is a name of Greek derivation suggesting them as a "water horse," but hippos are far from equestrian. In fact, they might just be the strangest and most dangerous animal you will witness on safari, half-submerged sixteen hours a day along rivers in their groups, or "bloats," of 10-20 hippos.

Here, we've compiled the latest and greatest, need-to-know info for your safari briefing on hippo bloats. So put on your raincoat (you'll find out why in a minute) and get ready to be wowed by hippo wisdom, facts that will surely impress your safari group.

Hippopotamus in the weeds of the water spotted on Safari in Tanzania

Introducing Hippopotamus: The Barrel-Bodied Submarines of the Serengeti

  • Species name: Hippopotamus amphibious. Two species: Common hippopotamus (what you'll experience on safari) and the Pygmy Hippopotamus, an endangered species native to the forests and swamps of Western Africa.
  • Average Lifespan: Up to 40-50 years.
  • Size: Average adult can be 11ft (3.5 meters) long, 5 feet tall (1.5 meters) and 3,000-7,000 pounds.
  • Range: Historically widespread in North Africa and Europe. Now only in select parts of Africa.
  • Estimated Population: 125,000 – 150,000 worldwide. 20,000 – 30,000 in Tanzania. Densest population in Tanzania: Katavi National Park, Serengeti National Park.

Group Of Hippos On Safari In Tanzania, Africa

Five Facts about the Hippopotamus You've Never Heard of Before

1. They Can Hold Their Breath for Five Minutes

What you might notice about hippos is that most of their important parts—ears, nose, and eyes—are located on the top of their massive head. This is so they can remain half-submerged in water for most of the day. To be sure, hippos do go beneath the surface using built-in goggles, a clear film that covers their eyes so they can see while they move. They can't swim, however. Hippos sink. Instead, they will walk or run along river bottoms. Amazing. (Source)

2. Hippos are Related to Whales

Due to their hairless skin and round bellies, many scientists believed hippos to be a sort of pig. Not even close. Hippopotamus ancestors are actually more whale and dolphin than any other species. Though still in dispute, this is the prevailing conclusion: that hippos diverged from these cetacean ancestors 55 million years ago. (Source)

Hippos all sleeping in the shallow waters of the river in Tanzania on Safari

3. Pablo Escobar, Colombian Drug Lord, Owned Hippos

Escobar, once the world's most wanted kingpin in the South American drug trade, was so rich that he started his own zoo. Escobar imported, among other species, five hippos, which he owned on his ranch until his death in 1993. Since then, the zoo went unkempt and these hippos escaped and began to procreate. Today, there are more than 50 hippos running wild in Colombia—the largest population outside Africa—and it's become a bit of a problem. (Source)

Young Baby Hippo With Its Mother On Safari in Tanzania, Africa

4. Baby Hippos are the Cutest (and the Hugest.)

If you're having a bad day, simply conduct a web search for "baby hippos" and your mood will undoubtedly shift. Arriving through the birth canal at 100 pounds, hippopotamus infants are born underwater and must learn to swim immediately. Quickly they learn how to draw milk from their mother while underwater. Now that's multitasking. (Source) Click here to see the video

5 - Hippo Poo Plays a Vital Role

As an herbivore, hippos will eat 80-100 pounds of grass in a single meal. With sitting in rivers and lakes all day, naturally their dung will cycle into waterways, to the benefit of many species (a phenomenon called "coprophagia"). Rich in nutrients, hippo dung is now a necessary ingredient to the health of many rivers in Africa. While we're on the topic, their excrement is also used to attract mates. How exactly? Males will fling the stuff with the propeller of their tail to impress a female. The further the fling, the better chances of scoring. No joke. ( Source Source)

Bottom Line?

Here's a good rule of thumb for any safari: go visit watering holes. Rivers, lakes, and ponds all attract significant wildlife, and your experienced Easy Travel guide will know the very best spots to witness such water-loving creatures—crocodiles, wildebeest crossings, birds...and hippos. Hippos are descendents of whales, they love to roll and play in shallow water, and their offspring are quite possibly the most adorable things on Earth. Contact Easy Travel today and let's plan your visit to Tanzania today.

Getting You There?

With over 30 years of experience, Easy Travel are an award winning tour operator with extensive knowledge of the local wildlife in Tanzania. Our guides all have decades of experience and know where to go, when to go, and how best to see these animals (and many more!). Click here for more info. Get up close and personal on our Comfort Wildlife Encounters tour. Alternatively get in touch and build your journey of a lifetime.


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