Considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in the world, they have very big teeth (almost 16cm in length) and a powerful bite, deadly enough to chomp a 3 metre-long crocodile in half. As they are aquatic, they feel very frightened when they are not in the water and will attack on the ground. They spend most of the day in the water and can stay submerged for up to six minutes, their extended bladder enabling them to take in more oxygen. As grazers, they will walk about at night in search of food.
Many of the most important aspects of their lives occur in water: they mate, deliver their calves and suckle their young in water. Hippos have 8cm of fat under their skin, but they have a thin layer of skin which is why they prefer to stay in water as long periods in the sun will burn them. Centuries ago English and Dutch settlers hunted down hippo in order to use their fat.
Lions, leopards and young crocodiles are some of their natural enemies; but fully-grown hippos are extremely difficult to take down. At two and a half to three tons this is perfectly understandable and despite their size, they are surprisingly fast, capable of running up to 36km/h.
The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" (ἱπποπόταμος), is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae (the other is the Pygmy Hippopotamus.) After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal and the heaviest extant artiodactyl.
The hippopotamus is semi-aquatic, inhabiting rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of 5 to 30 females and young. During the day they remain cool by staying in the water or mud; reproduction and childbirth both occur in water. They emerge at dusk to graze on grass. While hippopotamuses rest near each other in the water, grazing is a solitary activity and hippos are not territorial on land.
Despite their physical resemblance to pigs and other terrestrial even-toed ungulates, their closest living relatives are cetaceans (whales, porpoises, etc.) from which they diverged about 55 million years ago. The common ancestor of whales and hippos split from other even-toed ungulates around 60 million years ago. The earliest known hippopotamus fossils, belonging to the genus Kenyapotamus in Africa, date to around 16 million years ago.
The hippopotamus is recognizable by its barrel-shaped torso, enormous mouth and teeth, nearly hairless body, stubby legs and tremendous size. It is the third largest land mammal by weight (between 1½ and 3 tonnes), behind the white rhinoceros (1½ to 3½ tonnes) and the three species of elephant (3 to 9 tonnes). The hippopotamus is one of the largest quadrupeds (four legged mammals) and despite its stocky shape and short legs, it can easily outrun a human. Hippos have been clocked at 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances. The hippopotamus is one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and is often regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. There are an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 hippos throughout Sub-Saharan Africa; Zambia (40,000) and Tanzania (20,000–30,000) possess the largest populations. They are still threatened by habitat loss and poaching for their meat and ivory canine teeth.
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