The mighty river horse

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Saturday, 14 June 2008.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • The hippopotamus got its name from the Greek word hippoptamos, which means river horse.
  • The hippo was considered a female deity of pregnancy in ancient Egypt, but is no longer found in that country.
  • The hippo is the third-largest living land mammal, after elephants and white rhinos. It can weigh as much as 3.5 tonnes.
  • The hippos' hide alone can weigh half a ton.
  • A hippo can open its mouth wide enough to fit a 1.2 m tall child inside.
  • Few animals can open their mouths as wide as a hippo can - they use this ability to scare away other animals.
  • Hippos can turn their ears in the same direction at the same time.
  • A hippo can run faster than a man.
  • The hippo will often turn backside to an enemy and let dung fly. This is done to show confrontation or even superiority.
  • Most hippos live 20 to 30 years, some of them settling down in one area for their entire life.
  • The hippo's gestation period is just eight months.
  • A newborn hippopotamus does not move, so its mother pokes and pushes it until it does.
  • Hippos are born underwater, and nurse underwater too. The mother puts her head underwater and boosts the newborn to the surface to breathe. Then the baby goes under again, finds a nipple and suckles, instinctively folding down his ears and closing his nostrils. Every 20 to 40 seconds, he bobs to the surface to breathe and swallow.
  • Adult hippos can stay under the water for five to six minutes whereas a baby hippo can only stay under for 20 seconds.
  • Despite all their adaptations for life in the water, hippos cannot swim or even float.
  • The hippopotamus is a pachyderm. Many people think that "pachyderm" means "elephant", but the word literally means "thick skin" and is used to describe any thick-skinned animal, such as the elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus.
  • A hippo in dry air loses three to five times as much water per square inch per minute through its skin as a man does.
  • Hippos have to stay immersed in water for long periods of time because their skin is very thick and is subject to overheating and dehydration.
  • With very thick skin, especially over the back and rump, the hippo is almost completely hairless, with only a few bristles around the mouth and the tip of the tail.
  • The hippo's skin can be five centimetres thick in places.
  • People once believed that hippos sweated blood because their skin secretes a sticky pink fluid that protects the animal from dehydration, sunburn and possibly infection.
  • At night the hippos graze in nearby grasslands, consuming 40 kilos of grass per night.
  • When hippos fight, they toss water at each other, make a variety of sounds at each other and swing their massive heads at each other.
  • Mother hippos have been known to kill lions and bite crocodiles in half in order to protect the young.
  • A hippo has a three-chambered stomach: the parietal blind sac, the stomach and the glandular stomach.
  • With the long, razor-sharp incisors and tusk-like canines, the hippo is well-armed and dangerous. Their canine teeth and incisors grow continuously, with canines reaching 50 centimetres in length.
  • Hippos have a set of built-in "goggles" - a clear membrane covers their eyes for protection while still allowing them to see when underwater.
  • Newborn hippos often climb on their mothers' back to rest.
  • DNA results show that hippos are actually closer linked to dolphins and whales than to other hoofed animals.
  • Around the 18th century, hippo tusks were used to make artificial teeth.

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