Wednesday 2 September 2015

Mammals: Hippopotamus

The common hippopotamus is a large, herbivorous mammal that belongs to the Hippopotamidae family. The name “hippopotamus” comes from a Greek word meaning “water horse” or “river horse.” After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippo is the world's third largest land animal.


The Hippopotamus' Appearance
Hippos are really big! They can grow up to 10 feet long, 5 feet high at the shoulder, and 7000 pounds. Many of the Hippo's features enable them to spend a lot of time in the water. Their eyes, ears, and nose are all at the top of their head. This works out well because it helps them to be almost totally submerged under the water, but at the same time they can listen and watch for predators. They also have a clear membrane that covers their eyes and helps them to see under water. When they go under water, they can hold their breath for a long time.

Parts of a Hippo

The Hippopotamus' Behaviour
With the exception of eating, most of the hippopotamus' lives – from childbirth, fighting with other hippos, to reproduction – occurs in the water. Hippos leave the water at dusk and travel inland, sometimes up to 10 km, to graze on short grasses, their main source of food. They spend four to five hours grazing and can consume 68 kg (150 lb) of grass each night. Hippo are born with sterile intestines, and require bacteria obtained from their mothers' feces to digest vegetation. Hippos often live in large groups of up to 40 hippos. Sometimes there may be a few young males included the group.

The Reproduction of a Hippopotamus
Female hippos reach sexual maturity at five to six years of age and have a gestation period of eight months. Mating occurs in the water, with the female submerged for most of the encounter, her head emerging periodically to draw breath. Baby hippos are born underwater at a weight between 25 and 50 kg (55 and 110 lb) and an average length of around 127 cm (4.17 ft), and must swim to the surface to take their first breaths. A mother typically gives birth to only one calf, although twins also occur. A hippo baby is called a calf.

A calf
Fun Facts about Hippopotamus
  • It is the second heaviest land animal after the elephant.
  • A group of hippos is usually called a bloat, pod, or herd.
  • There have been reports of a few large hippo herds of close to 200 hippos.
  • Their sweat is thick and red, making it look like they are sweating blood (don't worry, it's not really blood). 

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