Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order – Artiodactyla
Family – Hippopotamidae
Genus - Hippopotamus
Species – H. amphibius
Common Name – Hippopotamus, Common Hippopotamus, Hippo, Nile Hippopotamus, River Hippopotamus
Hippos are semiaquatic, spending much of their time in the water during the day to keep cool, emerging onto land at night to feed on grass.
Hippos live in groups called pods that can include more than 100 individuals.
The hippopotamus is a massive animal, one of the largest living land mammals (only elephants and rhinoceroses are larger). They typically weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, and in rare cases can reach nearly 6,000 pounds. They can grow to lengths of 16 ½ feet, and measure over five feet tall at the shoulder.
They have rounded, plump bodies with short, stubby legs. Their heads are oddly shaped, with large muzzles, fleshy lips, and cheeks that hide massive tusks within their jaws. Their eyes and nostrils are placed on the upper part of the head to allow them to see above water and breathe air while much of their body is submerged.
Hippo skin can be up to two inches thick and is brownish gray above and pinkish orange on the underside. The skin produces a reddish liquid substance that serves as a natural sunblock that protects the hippo’s mostly hairless body.
Hippos have a cultural significance in Africa. In Ancient Egyptian mythology, the goddess Tawaret is shown with the head of a hippo, and the god Set was known to take the form of a hippo.
Many African folktales mention hippos, including one tale from the San people that talks of how they came to live in the water, only being allowed to do so by the Creator if they promised to eat only grass instead of fish.
An Egyptian Hippo sculpture dated from almost 4,000 years ago nicknamed “William” serves as an unofficial mascot for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it is part of their collection.
Despite their comical appearance, hippos are known to be quite dangerous and aggressive. They are known to attack boats traveling along African rivers. Mother hippos still caring for their young are especially aggressive.