Hippo Facts
Hippo Facts

24 Wild Hippopotamus Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published May 22, 2023
  • Hippopotamus is an ancient Greek word meaning river horse, despite the fact that the two animals are not closely related.[1]
  • Hippos are the third-largest land mammal on Earth. Only elephants and white rhinos outsize them.[1]
  • Hippos spend roughly 16 out of every 24 hours in the water.[1]
  • Like octopus, the word hippopotamus is derived from ancient Greek, rather than Latin, meaning its plural is hippopotamuses, rather than hippopotami just as the correct plural for octopus is octopuses.[6]
  • At birth, a baby hippo weighs 50 to 110 lbs (23 to 50 kg).[1]
  • Hippos are almost exclusively herbivorous, though they have been seen feeding on the carcasses of other animals, including other hippos.[1][5]
  • Baby Hippos
    Hitching a ride
  • Baby hippos stay with their mother and nurse for 8 months. It takes 5 to 7 years for the calf to reach maturity.[1]
  • Hippos use sub-sonic vocalizations to communicate with each other.[1]
  • A fully grown hippo weighs between 1.5 and 4 tons (0.9–3.6 mt).[4]
  • Baby hippos can suckle on land or—by closing their nostrils and ears—underwater.[4]
  • Following drug lord Pablo Escobar's death in 1993, the hippos he kept in his menagerie of wild animals escaped into Colombia's waterways. There is now a colony of nearly 100 hippos living in the rivers outside Medellín, Colombia.[1]
  • Between 29% and 87% of hippo attacks on humans are fatal. A human has better odds of surviving a grizzly, shark, or crocodile encounter.[5]
  • In the wild, hippos have a lifespan of up to forty years.[4]
  • Scottish hunter Roualeyn George Gordon-Cumming (1820–1866) travelled the continent of Africa for five years and wrote of the violent encounters his party often had with hippos.[2]
  • ...the wondrous hippopotamus, an animal with which I was extremely surprised and delighted...being a larger, a more lively, and in every way a more interesting animal than certain writings had led me to expect.

    - Roualeyn George Gordon-Cumming, Esq.

  • For short bursts, a hippo can sprint on land roughly as fast as an average human.[4]
  • Hippos live in family groups, variously referred to as pods, schools, bloats, or sieges.[1]
  • A hippo's jaws can open to 180 degrees, and their bite strength is ten times that of a human.[5]
  • Annually, hippopotamuses kill more than twice as many humans as do lions.[5]
  • A hippo's eyes, ears, and nostrils are placed high on its head, making it easy to swim with only a small part of its head above water.[4]
  • Hippo swimming
    They are far more graceful in water than on land

  • The signature "wheeze honk" made by hippopotamuses is so loud that it can be heard from a half-mile away.[1]
  • Hippos are the most dangerous mammals in the world, second only to humans.[5]
  • Rising water levels in Kenya's Lake Naivasha, and economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to many fatal clashes between humans and hippos in the lake in 2021.[5]
  • Hippo attacks in locations around the world have led to calls for culling local hippo populations—something that locals often resist.[1][5]
  • African big game hunting outfits offer hippopotamus hunts to those willing to pay for the experience.[3]
  • Fun Hippo Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Hippo Infographic Thumbnail

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