Hippos are one of the most recognizable animals in the world, with their large size, snout-like mouths, and big, round eyes. But there’s much more to these fascinating creatures than meets the eye. From their unique diet to their highly social behavior, here are 10 fun and surprising facts about hippos that you probably did not know about:
1. Hippos Cannot Swim.
It’s true, Hippos can’t actually swim… the dense structure of their bones and the weight of their great bodies makes them sink. In deep waters, they have to push themselves off the bottom to take a breath, but then they sink back down. They then hold their breath and walk or run along the bottom.
2. They Have Incredibly Sensitive Skin.
Hippos have susceptible skin, which is vulnerable to drying out and cracking if exposed to hot, dry air for extended periods of time. To prevent this from happening, hippos spend most of their time in the water, where their skin stays moist and cool. They also secrete a unique pinkish-red substance called “blood sweat,” which acts as a natural sunscreen and helps protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
3. They Cannot Breathe Underwater.
While hippos cannot breathe underwater like some aquatic animals, they are able to hold their breath for extended periods of time. They can remain submerged for up to five minutes at a time, and they often use this ability to rest or sleep underwater while keeping their nostrils above the surface to breathe. So, while they may not be able to breathe underwater, they are still well-adapted to life in the water and can remain submerged for extended periods without difficulty.
4. Hippos are Territorial, Especially When they are in the Water.
Hippos are highly territorial animals, and they defend their territory, especially in the water. They are known to be aggressive and will attack other animals, including humans if they perceive them as a threat. This territorial behavior is particularly pronounced during mating season when males fiercely defend their territories and fight off rivals to protect their females.
5. They Feed Primarily on Plants.
Hippos are herbivores, which means that they primarily feed on plants. They are mainly grazers, and they feed on grasses, aquatic plants, and fruits. They are also nocturnal animals, that are most active at night. They typically spend the day resting in the water and emerge at night to feed on grasses and other plants.
6. Hippos Give Birth Every Two Years.
On average, females give birth every two to three years. The gestation period for hippos is about eight months, and females typically give birth to a single calf. The calf is born underwater, and the mother will help the baby to the surface so it can take its first breath. The calf will then remain close to its mother for several months, nursing and learning to swim and feed on its own.
7. Hippos are Considered The Third Largest Land Animal on Earth.
Hippos are actually the third-largest living land mammals, after elephants and white rhinoceroses. While they are not the largest land animals on Earth, they are still quite impressive in size, with adult males weighing up to 4,500 pounds and measuring up to 15 feet in length. So, while they may not be the largest land animals on Earth, hippos are still quite impressive in size and are among the biggest mammals on the planet.
8. They are Very Vocal Creatures.
Hippos are known to be quite vocal and they make a variety of sounds, including grunts, snorts, and bellows. These vocalizations are used for communication and can be heard from great distances. Hippos also have a unique call that sounds like a honk or a bark, which is used to warn other hippos of potential danger.
9. Hippo Calves Can Suckle Underwater.
Hippo calves are born underwater and are able to suckle while submerged. The mother will help the calf to the surface so it can take its first breath, but after that, the calf is able to feed underwater by sucking on the mother’s teats. This allows the mother and calf to remain submerged for extended periods of time without needing to come to the surface for air.
10. They are Capable of Opening their Mouths at Almost 180 Degrees.
Hippos are known for their large and powerful jaws, which they use for both feeding and defending themselves. They are capable of opening their mouths at almost 180 degrees, which allows them to take in a large amount of food at once. This ability is also useful for display, as hippos often open their jaws wide as a way of showing aggression or dominance.
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