7 amazing facts about hippos

Discover fascinating facts about hippos. 

Hippo calves are not weened for about six months. © Brent Stirton/Staff/Getty


1. Muck-spreader

When defecating, hippos swish their tails back and forth, scattering their droppings like a muck-spreader. The resulting slapping noise echoes downstream and helps proclaim territory. 

2. Surprising history

Hippos, along with other megafauna such as lions and elephants, would have been a common sight in prehistoric Britain – their remains have been found underneath Trafalgar Square.

3. Small appetite

Male hippos weigh 1,600–3,200kg, and females 650–2,350kg. Despite their size they eat just 1–1.5 per cent of their body weight every day.

4. Sinking feeling

Hippos sink in water. They run along the river bottom instead of swimming.

5. Teething problems

The international ban on trade in elephant ivory led to an increase of 530 per cent in the annual export of hippo teeth within two years. The animal’s canines measure upwards of 50cm in length. 

6. Four stomachs are better than one

A hippo’s stomach has four chambers in which enzymes break down the tough cellulose in the grass that it eats. However, hippos do not chew the cud, so are not true ruminants like antelopes and cattle.

7. Home from home

A wild hippo named ‘Jessica’ often visits (and wanders into) the waterside home of South Africa’s Tonie and Shirley Joubert, who helped her out as a calf.

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