Saturday, September 11, 2010


One of the two hippos at the KC Zoo
When Mom went to the zoo last week to see Nikita, the polar bear, she also went to Africa.  Well, not to the real Africa, but at least to the Africa section of the zoo.  And when she was there, she saw lots of interesting African animals, so I'm going to tell you about one of them today, and it's the hippopotamus.

The name of this animal comes from Greek, and it means "river horse."  Hippos were called this because they live in the water a lot of the time, and baby hippos are even born in the water.  The hippopotamus is the fourth-largest animal in the whole world, after whales, elephants, and white rhinoceroses. Male hippos weigh 3,300--4,000 pounds, and the females weigh 2,900--3,300 pounds.  And as if that weren't big enough, the male hippos keep on growing during their whole lives, so they can get really, really humongous, like 7,000 or even 9,000 pounds.  But the females stop growing when they are about 25 years old.

The other KC hippo.  He (or she) was playing with that log
that's floating in the water.
Hippopotamuses live to be 40 or 50 years old.  The oldest hippo in a zoo right now is named Donna, and she is 57 years old, which is only one year younger than Mom!  Donna lives in a zoo in Evansville, Indiana.  There used to be a hippo named Tanga who lived in a zoo in Munich, and she was 61 when she died in 1995.

A group of hippos is called a pod, or you can also call it a herd, a dale, or a bloat.  Personally, I think bloat is an excellent word for a bunch of really huge animals all hanging out together, but pod is the word that seems to be used the most.  Hippos like to be in bunches, especially in the daytime when they are just lounging in the water or mud.  A pod of hippos is usually made up of a male who has claimed part of the river as his very own territory, plus also between 5 and 30 females and their babies.

Hippos are very aggressive and dangerous, so if you see one, you should get back in your Land Rover or climb a tree or something.  If there are baby hippos around, the adults get even meaner.  They often attack crocodiles, lions, and spotted hyenas, because these are animals that like to eat baby hippos.  Also hippos  will attack humans, and they don't really need a reason to do this.  They will attack humans in boats or humans on land.  And this is why people say hippos are one of the very most dangerous large animals in Africa.

You might think that hippos are slow and sluggish when they are on land, but you would be wrong because, guess what -- a hippo can run even faster than a human.  They can run as fast as 25 or 30 mph, but they can only go this fast for a few hundred meters.  I guess this makes them sprinters, kind of like greyhounds.

The people who study hippos have trouble telling the
sex of the hippos because the boy and girl parts
are usually underwater.
Anyway, hippos really like to hang out in the water, and the reason for this is that it helps them stay cool.  And also the water helps hold them up so their legs don't get tired.  Hippos have eyes and little bitty ears way up high on their heads so that they can keep most of their bodies in the water and still see and hear what's going on.  And here's something weird about hippos:  they can make their own sunscreen oil that comes out of their skin.  First it's red when it comes out, but then it turns sort of brown.  So between being in the water and also having their own sunscreen, hippos don't get sunburned.

Every day, when it starts getting dark, the hippos come out of the water and go looking for some yummy grass to eat.  They might walk as far as 5 miles to get to some good grazing spot.  In just one night, they can eat 150 pounds of grass.  Sometimes they eat other plants, but what they really like is grass, and even though they spend lots of time in the water, they don't eat the plants that grow there. 

Millions of years ago, there were lots and lots of hippos of many types living in Africa.  But now there are only about 125,000 to 150,000 left.  The countries with the most hippos are Zambia and Tanzania.  Sometimes people kill hippos to get their meat and especially to get their ivory canine teeth.  Also there aren't as many lakes and other nice places for hippos to live as there used to be a long time ago.  So that is why the hippopotamus is now called a VULNERABLE species.

The hippos that live in zoos nowadays were mostly all born there, and they don't have a problem making baby hippos in zoos.  So there is no need for zoos to capture any wild hippos, which is a good thing.  Hippos are expensive for zoos to keep because they eat so much, and that is why zoos don't breed hippos as often as the hippos would breed in Africa.

I did not ask Mom if we could have a hippo because I think they are too big and scary to have around.  Also they are ugly and they eat way too much.  If Mom had to feed a hippo, she would not have any money left for dog food.  But at least she wouldn't have to mow the grass anymore!


  1. Finally, mom let me write again. This is the first time in my entire life I've seen a picture of a hippo. The last picture is a good photo of their large mouth. I think Di and I would stay far far away from them. So...if your mom does get a hippo at some time, be very careful. My mom just told me that she's 99.99% sure that your mom won't be getting any hippos. Ha..she also said she feels like she's part of a "bloat" because of all the prednisone! One thing I've noticed in yesterday and today's blogs - you've mentioned animals being put on the "vulnerable" list. That doesn't sound good to me! Maybe people will think about that so the animals don't have to go on an endangered list, that would be really sad. I hope dogs and cats never get on one of those lists!

    I hope you and your siblings and your mom have a good day. My mom already said we aren't doing anything because she's to busy coughing! That means she'll be home with Di and me all day! :)
    Love, Dodi

  2. Dear Dodi,
    I would not want to be inside a hippo's big mouth, and I don't think you or Di would either! Your mom is right when she says my mom won't really be getting a hippo. My mom won't admit it, but she is afraid of hippos, just like I am!

    I'm sorry your mom is still coughing. My brother Gabe takes prednisone, but he is not bloated. He is looking bony because his muscles are getting smaller. Take good care of your mom today!
    Love, Piper