Hungry As A Hippo!

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Feeling hungry? Well no matter how hungry you are, you won’t be able to eat more than our newest Animal of the Week! These glorious mammals are known as the 3rd largest animal on land, and actually the most dangerous animal in their native Africa. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s the Hippopotamus! Hippos are semi-aquatic mammals, meaning that while they live on land, these animals spend a large amount of their daily life in the water. Contrary to popular belief though, the Hippopotamus actually isn’t a great swimmer! Instead, Hippos will gently walk along the bottom of the river or lake.

Are Hippos Dangerous To Humans?

As stated in the opening paragraph, the Hippopotamus is actually the most dangerous animal in Africa. Not the lion, not the crocodile, not the cheetah…but yes, the herbivorous Hippo! The main danger from a Hippopotamus comes from the fact that these animals are extremely territorial. Like most animals, when they feel threatened a Hippo will choose fight or flight, and usually that means fight. But even when they don’t feel specifically threatened, a Hippopotamus does not like intruders in their waters, so like always the best way to observe these animals is from afar, respecting their space and habitat. Almost 3,000 people each year are killed by Hippo attacks in Africa, much much more than the often feared shark attack at the beach.

Hippo Info graphic

How Fast Can A Hippo Run?

If a Hippopotamus is actually angry, most would assume a human might have a good chance to escape…WRONG! A Hippopotamus actually can run at 19 miles per hour, with the fastest human recorded at 28 miles per hour. So unless you’re Usain Bolt and have a getaway van at the ready, most people won’t have a chance against an angry charging Hippo. The yawn of a hippo is also a sign that someone is getting too close for comfort.

What Does a Hippopotamus Eat?

While these animals may be the most dangerous on their continent, the threat doesn’t have to do with humans looking like prey because the Hippopotamus is an herbivore! Grass is the primary part of a Hippo’s diet, although they will consume other plants when they find them, as well as aquatic plants rarely. There have been some reports of Hippos as predators, and even as cannibals! However the digestive system of a Hippopotamus is not meant for meat eating, so when these rare occurrences happen it usually means the animal is under nutritional stress or has some other issue or ailment.

Where Can You Find a Hippo in the wild?

Native to Africa, Hippos are often found in rivers and lakes throughout the continent in various countries like Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Africa, and more. Being a semi-aquatic mammal, Hippos prefer to be in watery areas like rivers and lakes, as well as the mangrove swamps of Africa.

How Old Do Hippos Live?

When it comes to an animal’s lifespan, there is a rule of thumb we can usually follow. First, the bigger the animal often means the longer the lifespan – animals like Elephants, Whales, Hippos are all very long lived. However it’s not a 100% true rule, as smaller parrots can still live longer than a polar bear for instance, and there are even some ant queens that can live 20 years or longer! The Hippopotamus has a lifespan that corresponds to their large size, often living around 40-50 years in the wild, with a little longer in captivity. The oldest Hippo Donna, was at Mesker Park Zoo in Indiana and lived to the ripe age of 61.

Be sure to head to our kids zone to do more activities like our awesome hippo quiz.


Hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) head in water