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Shoulder height: 1,5m
Mass: 1 000-2 000kg (Bull). 1 000-1 700 kg (Cow)
Identification pointers: Large size; barrel-shaped body and short legs; massive head with board muzzle; in water by day.
A hippopotamus, commonly known as Hippo, is a large, stout animal with smooth skin, stocky legs and a huge, broad-muzzle head. A hippo’s mouth is filled with a set of tusk-like canines and incisors. It has a short, flattened tail tipped with a tuft of black hair.
Hippos are grey-black in colour with touches of pink around its eyes and ears and underbelly. It is easy to track through the print its four-toed paw foot.
Hippos often secrete a fluid reddish in colour which can be mistaken for blood, but in actuality acts as skin lubricant and moisturizer of sorts.Despite their thick skins hippos are very sensitive to the heat. As a defense mechanism they secret a reddish fluid as a natural sunscreen which at times has been mistaken for blood and bore the myth that hippos sweat blood.
Hippo can be found in the Okavango River, Chobe, Boteti and Limpopo rivers. In the Okavango delta, they are distributed throughout the northern parts of the country, but during times of floods, they can even be found in the southern parts.
Hippos spend a large part of their day in water; an adult hippo can spend up to 6 minutes under water. As semi-aquatic mammals, emerge at night onto land to feeding ground. Hippos enjoy basking in the sun, particularly in the winter months and they socialize in groups of 10-15. Schools of hippo are made up of cows and youth of various ages with a dominant male who is in control of the entire school.
Dominant bulls mark their territories with scattered dung on bushes and other natural objects. Territories are found closer to water. Hippo pathways leading to feeding areas from their territories can be identified as a ‘double’ trail made by the dragging of the hippos feet on each side. Hippos will travel as far as 30km in search of ideal feeding areas.
Hippos make loud grunts and snorts as calling sounds. A provoked Hippo can be very dangerous, especially when it is with its young.
Hippos graze and eat grass only.
Hippos mate in water and give birth to calfs after a gestation period of between 225-257 days weighing anywhere from 25-55kg. They can mate out of water too not very common but has been documented
The cow will give birth to her young on land hidden in bushes away from predators and remain separated from the school for several months.
They once were reputed to be responsible for most human deaths in areas they were found in. Despite this reputation hippos are not meat eaters and are solely herbivorous.
Their collective name is a pod or raft of hippos.