Is the hippopotamus as harmless as it looks?

In the wild, the hippopotamus is the proverbial bully. These out-sized waddlers may look cute and cuddly, but are in fact the most ferocious, unpredictable creatures you could ever encounter! Weighing between 1,210 and 3,000 kg and growing to around 1.52 metres tall and 5 metres long, they have very few natural predators, except humans.

Hippos are native to Africa and spend most of their time in muddy rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps. They do this to escape the hot African sun and to keep their skin moist. In fact, the word hippopotamus means ‘river horse’ in Greek. They are mainly herbivores who eat grass, leaves, fruits and aquatic plants.

Hippos have the dubious distinction of being the world’s deadliest large land animal. They are fiercely territorial in the water and will attack anyone who invades their space, including apex water predators like the crocodile. Did you know that hippos are responsible for nearly 500 deaths in Africa every year! Even elephants and lions steer clear of hippos when they are in the water.

Their main defence is their deadly chomp! With one of the strongest bite forces of all land animals 1825 psi (pounds per square inch), the hippo is certainly an adversary to beware of. Together with its impressive jaw which opens nearly 180 degrees and giant canines that grow to a length of 46 centimetres, the hippo can easily break a man in two if it wants to.

Did you know that hippos are the only animals in nature to produce their own sunscreen! They sweat an oily, red pigment that protects their skin from the UV rays and also prevents bacterial infection.

Hippos are threatened by humans and habitat loss. They are classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List.

Picture Credit : Google

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