Hippopotamus amphibius - Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus amphibius - Hippopotamus


























Hippopotamus amphibius

Common name

: Hippo


  • Body length: 3.0 - 5.0 m, with 40-50 cm tail
  • Height at the withers(1): 1.5 - 1.65 m
  • Weight: female 1.0 - 1.7 t / male 1.0 - 4.5 t
  • Lifespan: 35-50 years
  • Sexual maturity: female: 7 - 9 years / male: 9-11 years


The hippo, scientific name Hippopotamus amphibius of the Hippopotamidae family, it lives in sub-Saharan Africa areas. The countries where it is mostly found are the countries of East Africa such as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. It is also present in other African countries but as small, insignificant groups, increasingly reduced by the progress of urbanization, which has destroyed and destroys its natural habitats. It was once also present in the Nile delta and in the Jordan River valley, which has now disappeared due to "the advancement of civilization".

The population of this species is currently estimated to be reduced to 125,000 - 148,000 across Africa.

The hippopotamus, being an amphibious creature (this expression is used, in the context of mammals, only for this animal) lives near rivers especially in estuaries and lower courses, in lakes, in swamps as long as they border expanses of grass can feed.


The hippo has a stocky body with very short legs that make it move awkwardly on land while in the water it is very agile and is a great swimmer.

The legs are provided with wide feet which represent excellent oars. There are four very thick and wide fingers that work like rackets by preventing the hippo from sinking into the mud.

Its skin is very thick and is equipped with numerous subcutaneous glands that secrete an oily and pink liquid that has the task of protecting the skin from the sun and insect bites, also functioning as an antiseptic.

The hippopotamus is equipped with fangs derived from the development of the canines and incisors that can reach up to 30 cm in length in the males (the canines) that the animal shows by opening the mouth up to an opening of 150 °.

Another peculiarity of the hippopotamus is the presence of a very short tail which is used in the male, to spread the feces all around. It is not clear what the meaning of this gesture is: according to some scholars to mark the territory according to others it would be a simple sign of orientation (see video below).


The hippopotamus spends its entire day in water (the skin must always be moist to prevent it from cracking), leaving it only at night to feed on herbs, not eating aquatic plants. It can swim up to 30 km in search of a suitable pasture. It generally feeds on the herbs it finds near the banks where it lives, but some specimens have been seen going even a few kilometers beyond the shore in search of food.

The hippo is a gregarious animal and therefore the streams where it lives must have a certain range. If they are streams of a certain size then you can see real expanses of hippos made up of 100 or even more individuals, while if they are small streams, the groups do not exceed 10-15 members. The group is formed by the female with her young and a dominant male who defends the group from other males who try to undermine her harem or her grazing area. He can also tolerate the presence of other males as long as they submit to his authority.

Males who do not yet have their own territory or group live along the boundaries of another dominant male and when they feel like it, they face the dominant male of the group to try to take his place. The fights between males can be very bloody and ferocious and it is not uncommon for one of the two contenders to leave us his life, as they manage to inflict serious wounds with their sharp canines.

Young males who are unable to compete with other males live in small groups, including singles.

The hippopotamus is an excellent swimmer and is able to remain under the water even for half an hour by closing its nostrils and ears.


The hippopotamus feeds mainly at night, leaving the water to go to the pastures near the banks, even going away for a few kilometers. The grass is plucked with the lips and then chewed with the molars as both the incisors and the canines have no function in nutrition but are only a weapon of offense / defense. The fact that they feed at night is probably dictated by the need to avoid sunstroke considering when their skin is sensitive.

It has been observed that the amount of food they ingest is very small compared to their size. This has been explained considering that the hippopotamus it has a minimum energy consumption as it spends the whole day resting in the water.


There is no precise period in which reproduction takes place but only seasonal peaks that correspond to the rainy season.

During the reproduction period, the male hippopotamus turns among the females sniffing them to identify the one in heat and once found it chases it in the water and after a short fight the mating takes place.

Gestation lasts 7-8 months after which the female gives birth either on land or in an area of ​​shallow water. The baby weighs about 25-50 kg at birth and only after about two weeks does the mother rejoin the group. Weaning takes place at about 8 months.

Females typically stay with their mother until the age of 8 and since an adult female gives birth approximately every two years, a mother can be surrounded by a number of daughters at the same time. Males, on the other hand, are turned away from the dominant male when they reach sexual maturity.


The hippo is classified in the IUNC Red list among vulnerable species VULNERABLE (VU) that is, among animals close to being considered at high risk of extinction in the wild.

The most recent estimates have shown that over the past decade there has been a 7-20% population decline and it has been estimated that within three generations (around 30 years) there will be a 30% decline. The IUNC believes that there is no reason to be optimistic that the main cause of its population decline, the destruction of its natural habitats, does not seem to be able to find a solution.


The hippopotamus helps to preserve the natural habitat thanks to its excrements in fact they are an excellent fertilizer that stimulates the growth of numerous aquatic microorganisms at the base of the local ecosystem.

They are considered the most dangerous animals in Africa as they are very aggressive, especially towards humans. They do not disdain to go into the cultivated fields, destroying all the crops.

L'hippopotamus for many African populations it represents a source of sustenance as its meat is highly appreciated like all parts of its body (the canines for ivory, skin, fat). It has been observed that hunting in Congo has reduced the population by 95% within a few years.


Within the Hippopotamidae family we find only two genera: one is precisely the genus Hippopotamus with the only species Hippopotamus amphibius the other is the genus Hexaprotodon which includes the species Hexaprotodon liberoensis (dwarf hippo) e Hexaprotodon madagascariensis (Madagascar dwarf hippopotamus) which are two dwarf species.


(1) Withers: region of the body of the quadrupeds between the upper edge of the neck and the back and above the shoulders, in practice the highest area of ​​the body (excluding the head)

Video: Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius