Hippopotamus - Hippopotamus amphibius

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Afrikaans Seekoei Zulu Mvubu 
Mpfubu Tswana Kubu
R.W. Min 29⅞" Max 64"
S.C.I Min 50" Max 88" Measurement Method 4

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20 cm


12 cm
Scatted with tail

Visible Male/Female Differences

Females have one pair of nipples between the hind legs.  Mature males are larger than females, and have much thicker necks with heavier skin folds and larger tusks.

Habitat and Distribution

Hippos need water which is at least 1,5 m deep in but can survive temporarily in mud holes and need fresh water for drinking.


A selective grazer but  will take floating water plants and eat elephant dung in severe food shortages . It can do serious damage to crops and gardens.


A single calf weighing 30 kg is born every 2-3 years at any time of year after a gestation 225-227 days. Young begin grazing at 6-8 weeks and are weaned at 8-14 months. Females mature at 5 years and males at 6-8 years with a life expectancy of 35 years.

Crocodiles take young hippos in the water and lions take young hippo on the shore. Females give birth in dense reed beds and introduce the calf to the herd after 2 weeks. Females with young are very aggressive but allow other females to act as babysitters. Calves suckle under water and come up for breath every few seconds.

Behavior and Habits

Hippo spend the day resting in or near water and will leave the water to sunbathe. Hippo sweat contains a red pigment that will act as a sun screen. Hippos can swim on the surface or run in slow motion along the bottom. They can remain submerged for up to 6 minutes. Both ears and nostrils have valves that keep water out. At dusk they move to the bank where it will feed for 7-8 hours. Hippos will travel up to 30 km to feed.

Hippos live in pods of up to 30 with a single dominant bull which will defend the pods' territory which includes only the water. If frightened on land hippo rush back to the safety of the water and anything in the way will be trampled. A bull may hold a territory for as long as 12 years. Neighbouring bulls meeting on their boundary stare fixedly at each other, turn, and spray dung and urine - much like politicians.

Savage fights over territory and females are savage may leave serious wounds and may be fatal. For some reason hippos wounds rarely become infected, even in very dirty water. The vanquished bulls are driven out of the territory while young males are chased out of the pod by the dominant bull at about six years old. Dominant bulls sometimes try to kill the young to force the female into oesterus and mothers will defend their offspring. The dominance act of yawning displays the large mouth and tusks and is a warning to keep away.


The most characteristic call is a series of one long roaring grunt up to 120 decibels and several short ones produced as it surfaces; it also roars, screams, croaks, clicks and whines. Calls transmit through water as well as through air; underwater croaks are probably a short-range contact call. Calls probably include sounds below the frequency limit of human hearing.

Dung and Field sign

Hippo trails wear into two parallel ruts. Dung heaps near paths.


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