I have the wonderful opportunity to work as a seasonal zookeeper at my local zoo! When you’re a zookeeper, people always ask: “What animals do you work with?” Well, at my zoo, I’m a part of a team that cares for a variety of species of animals, but I’m getting trained to help with our lovely hippopotamuses. So, allow me to share some fun facts about the mighty hippo.
- Hippos are herbivores (grass eaters). At the zoo, we feed them hay, alfalfa, and a high fiber grain mix. In the wild, hippos will leave the rivers they call home to travel many miles for grasses to eat. They usually search for food at night. Sometimes, their travels can cause issues with natives because they’ll enter and destroy farmland.
- Hippopotamus is Greek for “river horse.” Hippos can be found in the rivers of Africa and they were given the name “river horse” because of how they walk along the bottom of a river, they look like trotting horses when they do. Hippos are denser than water, so this makes it easier for them to rest at the bottom of the rivers.
- Hippos are highly adapted for living in the water. They can hold their breath for about 5 minutes at a time and can even sleep underwater! Their bodies instinctively push up while asleep so they can take a breath. Hippos also have their eyes, nose, and ears all on the top of their head so when they come to the surface of the water, they can see, smell, and hear everything around them. They can fold their ears back and close their nostrils so nothing gets in when they sink back underwater.
- Hippos are the most dangerous mammal in Africa. Like I said before, they’re herbivores, so they don’t eat meat, but they are extremely territorial. Hippos will open their mouths in a yawning motion to display their front teeth as a warning for those that get too close and they’ll charge to chase people and animals away. Hippos can move about 8 miles an hour in the water and up to 30 miles an hour on land; however, because they’re so dense, they can’t keep those speeds for long.
- Hippos can live up to 36 years in the wild; however, in zoos, they can live much longer. There are zoos who currently have hippos in their 50s.
- Hippos have powerful jaws. They can open their mouths up to 150 degrees (humans can only open to about 45 degrees). They can crush a watermelon whole, break holes in ships, and even have enough pressure to split a crocodile in half.
- They have adorable whiskers, stiff like straw. When eating, they use their lips to pull food into their mouths. Hippos actually have 36 teeth (just like humans!). They chew their food with their molars in the back of their mouth.
- Hippos can see colors.
- Hippos have what is called “blood sweat.” It is not actually blood. It a secretion from their pores that helps keep them moisturized when out of the water. It also acts as a bug repellant and antibiotic to heal their wounds.
- Hippos in zoos are trained to preform various behaviors and tasks to help keepers provide medical treatment and stimulation. Training all depends on whether or not the hippo wants to do it or not. If they do, they’re rewarded tasty fruits and vegetables.
One thought on “The Mighty Hippo”
Great insight on hippos! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. You always teach me something new!!
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