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Two hippo species are found in Africa . The larg hippo, found in East Africa, occurs south of the Sahara. This social, group-living mammal is so numerous in some areas that «cropping» schemes are used to control populations that have become larger than te habitat can sustain. The other, much smaller (440 to 605 pounds) species of hippo is the pygmy hippoptamus(Cheropsis liberiensis). Limited to very restricted ranges in West Africa, it is a shy , solitary forest dweller, and now rare.
The large hippo is an aggressive animal; old scars and fresh, deep wounds are signs of daily fights that are accompanied by much bellowing, neighing and snoring. Hippos have developed some ritualized postures the huge open-mouth “yawn” that reveals formidable teeth is one of the most aggressive. With the long, razor-sharp incisors and tusk-like canines, the hippo is well-armed and dangerous
Hippos move easily in water, either swimming by kicking their hind legs or walking on the bottom. They are well-adapted to their aquatic life, with small eyes, ears, and nostrils set at the top of the head. These senses are so keen that even submerged in water, the hippo is alert to it’s surroundings. By closing it’s ears and nostrils, the adult can stay under the water for 6 minutes.
Hippos have a flexible social system defined by hierarchy and by feed and water conditions. Usually, they are found in mixed groups of about 15 individuals, but in periods of droughts, large numbers are forced to congregate near limited pools of water. This overcrowding disrupts the hierarchal system, resulting in even higher levels of aggression, with the oldest and strongest males most dominant. Hippos are unpredictable. If they are encountered away from the safety of the water, anything that gets in between them and their refuge may be bitten or trampled.
Amazingly, agile for their bulk, hippos are good climbers and often traverse rather steep banks each night to graze on the grass. They exit the water at the same spots and graze for four or five hours each night in loop patterns, covering one or two miles, with extended forays up to five miles. Their modest appetites due to their sedentary life, which does not require, high outputs of energy.
A single young is born either on land or in shallow water. In waster, the mother helps the newborn to the surface, later teaching it to swim. Newly born hippos are relatively small, weighing from 55 to 120 pounds, and are protected by their mothers, not only from crocodiles and lions, but from male hippos that, oddly enough, do not bother them on land but attack them in water.
Young hippos can only stay underwater for about half a minute, but adults can stay submerged for 6 minutes. Young hippos suckle underwater by taking a deep breath, closing their nostrils and ears, and wrapping their tongue tightly around the teat and suck. This procedure must be instinctive, because newborns suckle the same way on land. A young hippos begins to eat grass at 3 weeks, but it’s mother continues to suckle it for a year. Newborns often climb onto their mother’s backs to rest.
Compared to other animals, hippos are not very susceptible to disease, so in suitable habitats, their numbers can increase quickly. Their chief predators are people, who may hunt hippos for their meat, hides, and ivory teeth.
Š The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek “hippos” meaning horse, these animals are called “river horses”, but hippos are more related to pigs than to horses.
Š Hippos spend most of their day in water close to shore lying on their bellies. In areas undisturbed by people, hippos lie on shore in the morning sun.