The word "hippopotamus" is derived from the ancient Greek meaning "horse of the river".
HOW ARE HIPPOS CLASSIFIED?
Living things can be organised into different groups. Species that are alike are grouped together. This is called classification.
Species: Hippopotamus amphibius
HIPPOS ARE SPECIAL
Hippos are able to hold their head partially above the water and send out a call that can be heard by other hippos both through the water and air. Although younger males and females are similarly sized, it appears that the males continue to grow throughout their lives.
Hippos are found in many countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest current populations in eastern African counties such as Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.
Map showing distribution of the Hippopotamus
Hippos like to live in places with permanent water that is deep enough to submerge in. They do not like rapids and prefer rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps with gently sloping, firm bottomed beds.
Even though they spend most of their time in the water, the diet of hippos consists mainly of grasses found on land. They leave the water at dusk and travel inland, sometimes up to 8 kilometers, to graze for up to four or five hours.
The eyes, ears, and nostrils of hippos are placed high on the skull which allows them to have their body submerged in order to stay cool and prevent sunburn and drying out of the skin. Their skin secretes a natural red-coloured substance which acts as a natural sunscreen. They close their nostrils as they submerge and rise to breathe every few minutes.
The hippopotamus is often regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
Most major events in a hippo’s life (giving birth, fighting and mating) occur in the water.
Although hippos like to lie close to each other in the water, they do not seem to form social bonds apart from those between mothers and their offspring. In the water, male hippos are territorial - a bull presides over a small stretch of river containing up to thirty females and young hippos disperse individually in order to forage.
Females reach sexual maturity at between eight and ten years of age and after an eight month gestation, a cow gives birth to a single calf, usually underwater. The young may remain with their mother for many years. Small calves are sometimes left in ‘crèches’, which are guarded by one or several cows whilst the mothers forage.