The great African hippopotamus is second in weight only to the elephant. It spends up to 18 hours a day in water to keep cool and minimize heat loss, and to support its huge body.
The hippopotamus usually lives in groups of 15-20 animals,
although the groups can be much larger. The hub of the group
is the band of females and their young. This group lives on
territory patrolled by a dominant, solitary male who is at
least 20 years old. A dominant male is able to defend his territory
for as long as 10 years, until a fierce fight with a younger rival male
may end his dominance - and even result in his death. Young
males who do not have their own groups form small bachelor
groups. If a male successfully challenges a rival, he leaves
the bachelor group and becomes the dominant male in his new
When a female is ready to mate, she will seek out an adult male. After approximately 34 weeks, the female leaves the group and gives birth to a single young. Sometimes the young is born underwater, and it must surface quickly to take its first breath.
Within 5 minutes of birth, the young hippo can swim and walk. The mother suckles the young hippo for only 8 months, although it remains with her for several years. A female is often seen with several young following her; the youngest walking closest and the oldest following at the end.
The hippopotamus spends up to 18 hours a day in the water keeping cool. It feeds during the hours following sunset. With the exception of mothers and their offspring, the animals leave the water singly to make their way along well-worn paths to their feeding grounds. If the hippo finds a wallow of muddy water, it may remain immersed in it for much of the day. It may feed in the new area rather than returning to its usual feeding ground. For such a large animal, the hippo eats surprisingly little - about 90 pounds a night. This is partly because it stays submerged in water most of the time, which uses up little energy.
Length: 10-11 ft.
Height: 5 ft.
Weight: Males 3,300-7,000 lb. Females up to 3,300 lb.
Sexual Maturity: Males, 7 years (though do not usually breed until age 20). Females, 9 years.
Gestation: 240 days.
Birth Season: Coincides with rainy season.
No. of young: single young.
Habit: Sociable, living in groups of 10-20, but can be up to 150.
Call: Roars and bellows.
Lifespan: 45-50 years.
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