Trivia fact: A group of hippos is known as a bloat.
Hippos commonly reach 13 feet long, 5 feet tall, and weighs in at up to 3.5 tonnes.
The size and shape of the hippo goes a long way to reflect its amphibious, and largely sedentary, lifestyle. It has a very plump and rounded body, positioned on top of short and stumpy legs. The four toes on the end of the hippos feet are splayed apart, and sufficiently webbed to enable the hippo to be effectively supported when on land.
The hippo has an extremely thick hide, and is more or less hairless, only growing a few bristly spines around the mouth and on the end of the tail. In order to keep cool under the hot African sun, hippos rely on the water they bathe in, and the mud that accumulates on the bank, and at their bottom of their chosen water pools.
There are two separate species of hippo found in Africa. The large hippo is in sub-Saharan Eastern Africa, and are extremely numerous. The other, smaller species, is called the pygmy hippopotamus and is only found is certain areas of West Africa. It tends to live in forest areas, and is very shy, and rarely seen.
The larger species of hippo is very aggressive, and is known to be the most dangerous mammal in Africa, with regards to injuries and deaths caused to humans by them. They have very long, tusk-like teeth that are used in postures of defense against potential predators, and when fighting other hippos for mates and territory.
Generally, hippos prefer to stay in the water, and move around very easily by either walking along the bottom, or kicking their legs and swimming. They have become well adapted to live this aquatic existence, with nostrils, eyes, and ears all set towards the top of their head. They also have extremely keen senses, so much so that, even when submerged, they will be aware of any threats outside of the water.
Hippos are generally social animals, and tend to live in herds of about 15, mixed between males and females. However, when droughts occur, and water is limited, different herds will tend to gather around available water supplies. This can lead to a breakdown of the hierarchical system, in turn increasing the numbers of fights and acts of aggression between the herds.
Hippos are also surprisingly agile, considering their shape and weight. At night, they will often climb high banks and begin grazing on the grasslands around their watery habitat. For roughly 4 or 5 hours each night they will graze, often covering a mile or two before returning to their pool.
Due to their size and aggressive nature, hippos have few predators. While lions can prey on the weak and the young, poachers still represent a threat when hunting for their tusks. However, hippo numbers are generally thriving, and their continued presence in Africa is currently assured.
Hippos can be seen at many of the main National Parks and reserves, living in most rivers that have water all year round. Lake Naivasha in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania are two places you will almost certainly see them, albeit just their heads and ears as they spend the day wallowing in the water and mud.
To watch a video of hippos in the Mara river, Kenya, please visit our YouTube channel.