The Common hippo is a very large mammal, which name comes from the ancient Greek and means "river horse". Hippos are recognizable for their barrel-shaped torsos, wide-opening mouths with large canine tusks, nearly hairless bodies, pillar-like legs, and large size. Despite their stocky shape and short legs, these animals are capable of running 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
In zoology, a graminivore (not to be confused with a granivore) is an herbivorous animal that feeds primarily on grass. Graminivory is a form of g...
Semiaquatic animals are those that are primarily or partly terrestrial but that spend a large amount of time swimming or otherwise occupied in wate...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Grazing is a method of feeding in which a herbivore feeds on plants such as grasses, or other multicellular organisms such as algae. In agriculture...
Natatorial animals are those adapted for swimming. Some fish use their pectoral fins as the primary means of locomotion, sometimes termed labriform...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
Dangerous animals demonstrate aggression and a propensity to attack or harass people or other animals without provocation.
A dominance hierarchy (formerly and colloquially called a pecking order) is a type of social hierarchy that arises when members of animal social gr...
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The original range of this species used to cover sub-Saharan Africa. The small current range of Common Hippos includes East African countries such as Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. As semiaquatic creatures, they prefer living in shallow water bodies such as lakes, rivers, or swamps. Hippos mostly live in freshwater habitats; however, populations in West Africa mostly inhabit estuarine waters and may even be found out at sea.[
Common hippos are highly social, nocturnal, and sedentary animals. They usually form groups of 20-100 individuals that are led by females, who occupy the core areas of their resting pools. Males of the group are responsible for protecting females and the young. Hence, they remain on the outer banks of these resting pools. The daytime hours are typically spent resting. At dusk, the animals come out of their shelters to forage. Common hippos are normally non-territorial, except when in the water. Males of this species can occasionally be observed fighting for access to females or space in the resting pool. Males and females of a group don't tend to socialize with each other and generally remain separated. Females and their offspring gather in smaller sub-groups and occasionally practice communal care, helping rear each other's claves. Communication between community members occurs through a wide range of vocalizations.
Common hippos exhibit a polygynous mating system, where one male mates with a group of females. These mammals don't have a specific breeding season, although they generally mate from February to August. Females of this species give birth underwater. They produce offspring from October to April, which coincides with the rainy season. A single baby is born after 240 days of gestation. Mothers and their young live in close bonds with each other. They display affection through activities such as cleaning and cuddling. Complete weaning occurs at about 1.5 years old, although the baby often continues living with its mother until 7-8 years of age, when totally independent. The age of reproductive maturity is 7-9 years old for males and 8-10 years old for females.
There two main threats to the Common hippo today: hunting and loss of its habitat. In former times, Common hippos used to occupy a large territory, extending from the Nile Delta to the Cape. The current range of this species is restricted to protected areas. Hippos are directly killed for their meat, fat as well as ivory tusks, which are highly valued. Additionally, hundreds of individuals are shot annually by humans, who try to escape possible conflicts with these animals, although ditches and low fences are able to prevent unwanted encounters. On the other hand, the growing human population in the area leads to habitat destruction in a form of settlements, agriculture, and roads.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Common hippos is likely to vary between 125,000 and 148,000 individuals. This includes estimates of its populations in the following areas: Western Africa - around 7, 000 hippos; Eastern Africa - about 70,000 hippos; and Southern Africa - around 80,000 hippos, 40, 000 of which live in Zambia (the biggest population of this species among all African countries), 16,000-20,500 animals in Mozambique, about 10,000 in Malawi, 6,900 hippos in Zimbabwe and approximately 5,000 in South Africa. Currently, the Common hippo is classified as Vulnerable (VU) and its numbers continue to decrease.
Due to their immense size and lifestyle, these animals are very important to the ecosystem of their range. For example, by entering the water and coming out, they generate habitats for smaller organisms as well as create routes, through which the rainwater flows during the wet season. When these paths are flooded, lagoons and side pools emerge, where small fish later retreat with diminishing levels of water.