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Which animal’s name literally means ‘river horse’ in Greek?
As uncommon as it may be, simple hippos are our horses. And hippopotamuses are river horses. The hippopotamus has other names, but this one is original and came from ancient Greek ( “hippos” – horse, “potamus” – river).
“The river horses” are mostly hairless, averaging at 1500 kilos in mass. They are hunted for their meat and teeth, creating danger to the species.
But don’t let these funny barrels deceive you! The hippopotamuses are not so innocent as they seem to be! They demand respect for the ponds and land that they have claimed and can chase you off aggressively at 30 km/h. These animals are regarded as nearly the most dangerous creatures of Africa!
According to statistics, the hippopotamus kills more people than any other African species. It happens not because they are predators or like human meat – they just try to protect their territory. The hippopotamus’s jaws are so massive that one single bite is usually enough to kill an adult man.
Facts About Hippos
Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius) are large, round, water-loving animals that are native to Africa. The word “hippopotamus” comes from the Greek word for “water horse” or “river horse,” although hippos and horses aren’t closely related. The closest living relatives to hippos are pigs, whales and dolphins, according to the San Diego Zoo.
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Hippos are very rotund animals and are the third largest living land mammals, after elephants and white rhinos, according to Animal Planet. They grow to between 10.8 and 16.5 feet (3.3 to 5 meters) long and up to 5.2 feet (1.6 m) tall at the shoulder. The average female weighs around 3,000 lbs. (1,400 kilograms), while males weigh 3,500 to 9,920 lbs. (1,600 to 4,500 kg), according to the San Diego Zoo.
Hippos live in sub-Saharan Africa. They live in areas with abundant water, as they spend most of their time submerged to keep their skin cool and moist. Considered amphibious animals, hippos spend up to 16 hours per day in the water.
Hungry, hungry hippos
Hippos have a healthy and mostly herbivorous appetite. Adults eat about 80 lbs. (35 kg) of grass each night, traveling up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) in a night to get their fill. They also eat fruit that they find during their nightly scavenging, according to National Geographic. If food is scarce, hippos can store food in their stomachs and go up to three weeks without eating.
Although hippos were long believed to be exclusively herbivorous, 2015 study published in the journal Mammal Review found that hippos occasionally feed on the carcasses of animals, including other hippos.
Female hippos have a gestation period of eight months and have only one baby at a time, according to the San Diego Zoo. At birth, the calf weighs between 50 and 110 lbs. (23 to 50 kg). For its first eight months, the calf nurses while its mother is on land, or it swims underwater to suckle. When it dives, the calf closes its nose and ears to block out water. All hippos have this ability. Hippos also have membranes that cover and protect their eyes while they are underwater.
At 5 to 7 years old, the hippo calf is fully mature, according to the San Diego Zoo. The median life expectancy of a hippo is 36 years.
Attacks on humans
The hippopotamus is considered the world’s deadliest large land mammal. These semiaquatic giants kill an estimated 500 people per year in Africa, according to the BBC. Hippos are highly aggressive and are well-equipped to deliver considerable damage to anything that wanders into their territory.
For example, in 2014, a hippo attacked a small, unsuspecting boat filled with Nigerian school children, killing twelve students and one teacher on board, an Australian news outlet reported. Conflicts between humans and hippos also occur when hippos wander onto land in search of food.