What is Hippopotamus?

The hippopotamus spends most of its day lying in mud holes or lakes – a full 16 hours. It even sleeps in the water. The hippopotamus has very short legs, but you must not be fooled by that. The hippopotamus can reach a top speed of 30 km per hour. The hippopotamus got its name from the ancient Greeks. They put together the name of “river” and “horse” because it spends so much time in the water.

Facts about the hippopotamus

Location: Africa, on the Savannah
Life expectancy: 40-50 years
Weight: 2,500-3,500 kilos
Size: 1.5 meters high, 4 meters long
Food: Grass and aquatic plants
Quantity: 125,000-150,000
Fun fact: Among male hippos, it is a form of greeting to meet each other with feces. This is a sign that the hippopotamus is not in trouble.


The hippopotamus is a large clumsy barrel-shaped animal that spends most of its time in muddy freshwater holes. Its body has adapted to life in water holes. Eyes, ears and nose are located on the top surface of the hippopotamus’ huge head, which is extremely convenient when it now spends so much time in the water. In addition to the barrel-shaped body, the hippopotamus has very short legs that give it a somewhat tumbled character. The hippopotamus is almost hairless and its skin can become almost two inches thick. The hippopotamus has a violent bite with front teeth and otherwise two very sharp canines in the lower mouth. With these and its enormous strength, it can easily bite a crocodile in the middle.


Hippos mainly eat grass. Only rarely does it eat aquatic plants. The hippopotamus has three stomachs and a very special digestive system which means that it only needs to eat once a day. At night when temperatures have dropped, the hippopotamus goes ashore to graze. It prefers to eat as close to the water as possible, but may at times go on a longer hike. It often takes 5 hours to consume about 40 kg of grass. It does this every day, and when the immediate area is empty of fresh short grass, it is not abnormal for the hippopotamus to walk 2-5 km to get fresh food. In certain periods the hippopotamus walks 10 km to find food.

Spread stools

The hippopotamus uses urine and feces to mark paths and places it has been, so that the next day can find out where it has previously grazed. The hippopotamus’ tail is flat, and has almost a propeller function that allows feces to spread several meters. It is incredibly effective in terms of having to mark trails.


The water is truly the focal point of the hippopotamus’ life. This is where it spends most of its time; this is where it sleeps; this is where it mates, and at the edge of the water, where the water hits the female of the hippopotamus, it feeds its calf so that it can get air quickly. Juveniles born under water often die after a few minutes because they cannot get air. The female hippopotamus is pregnant for 8 months before giving birth to its young. The baby weighs about 45 kg when it is born. After an hour, the baby can stand and walk by itself, and when it is 2 weeks old, it is able to follow the herd. The kid thrives as well on land as it does in water. It is in the water that it dikes from its mother. Mother and young people are often very closely linked, and the child is very close to his mother during the first year. Female hippos are very protective of their young and they can become insanely aggressive,


The hippopotamus is a herd animal. The herd size can vary a lot, but is usually 10-15 hippos. However, flocks of up to 150 hippos have been seen. The hippos do not suffer from claustrophobia. Under water, they like to stand side by side close together. The hippopotamus has no natural enemies, only the cubs can be threatened by predators. The hippos stand close together in the water to protect the young from attacks from e.g. crocodiles. They help each other. It is only at night when they have to eat that the hippopotamus wanders around alone. The only times you see a hippopotamus go with another at night is when a mother and youngster go together for food.


It is actually a misconception to call the hippopotamus a horse as it has nothing to do with a horse. The hippopotamus has its closest relative to pigs and other ruminant pair-toed mammals. DNA analyzes show to great surprise that the hippopotamus is also closely related to whales. For 45 mio. years ago things happened in evolution that are the reason for this relative. Hippos were formerly a more widespread breed, and traces of hippos have been found all the way up in England. Due to the ice age, the hippopotamus was driven away from Europe and is thus only to be found in Africa. In addition to the hippopotamus, there is also the dwarf hippopotamus of 250-275 kg. It has a different way of life than the hippopotamus. The dwarf hippopotamus lives alone or in pairs, and sleeps on land. The dwarf hippopotamus stays on land most of the day and only searches for water holes when it feels threatened.

Travelers’ questions about the hippopotamus

Can the hippopotamus swim?

Yes – hippos can swim.

Hippos thrive best in water, and they are pretty good at swimming. Hippos can not float. Therefore, they must also swim if they want to stay afloat. However, it often happens that hippos spend much of their time on the bottom of the lake. Its weight causes the hippopotamus to sink to the bottom. At the bottom, they are also really good at walking, which is why you can sometimes see the hippopotamus moving at massive speed in the river – that’s because it runs. The hippopotamus can hold its breath approx. 5 min., But there have also been cases where the hippopotamus spends half an hour underwater. The hippopotamus is so fond of water that it also sleeps in the water. In sleep, the hippopotamus can swim up to the surface every 5 minutes to get air – convenient.

Is the hippopotamus dangerous?

The short answer is yes!

The hippopotamus is the mammal that is most responsible for most fatalities in humans each year. The hippopotamus is an aggressive animal, and when it feels threatened, it becomes even more aggressive. The hippopotamus has an amazing mother gene that makes the hippopotamus want to do anything to protect its young. It is estimated that the hippopotamus kills up to 2,900 people a year. Therefore, one should always be careful when moving near hippos. It is important to respect the aggressive animal. If they meet a human, they can easily run the human up. Despite its short legs, the hippopotamus can hit a speed of 30 km / h. Hippos can also be dangerous at night when they go ashore to eat.

How powerful is the hippopotamus’ mouth?

The hippopotamus is a herbivore, but despite that, it has an unusually strong bite. It is the mammal with the greatest force in the jaws. The mouth can be opened 150 degrees and it measures about 120 cm when it opens the gap. The massive opening of the gap also means that the hippopotamus can easily bite an alligator of 3 meters in the middle of one bite. The hippopotamus’ bite pressure is 1.3 tons. Sharks that are otherwise associated with the “gap of death” have long since lost the battle. Its bite pressure is “only” 470 kg. The real gap of death lies with the hippopotamus.

Facts about the hippopotamus