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|- | style="text-align:center;" | Hippopotamus.jpg
|- style="text-align:center;" ! style="background: pink;" | Scientific classification |- style="text-align:center;" |

|- valign=top |Kingdom:||Animalia |- valign=top |Phylum:||Chordata |- valign=top |Class:||Mammalia |- valign=top |Order:||Artiodactyla |- valign=top |Family:||Hippopotamidae |- valign=top |Genus:||Hippopotamus |- valign=top |Species:||amphibius |} |- style="text-align:center;" ! style="background: pink;" | Binomial name |- style="text-align:center;" |Hippopotamus amphibius
Linnaeus, 1758 |}

The Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is a large, plant-eating African mammal, one of only two living and three (or four) recently extinct species in the family Hippopotamidae.

Hippopotamuses ('hippopotami' is also accepted as a plural form by the OED), also called hippos, are gregarious, living in groups of up to 20 animals. They spend most of the day up to their nostrils in the waters of tropical rivers, as their skin transpires much more moisture than most animals and they are extremely susceptible to sunburn. They can close their nostrils and remain completely submerged for more than ten minutes. Eyes, ears, and nostrils are placed high on the roof of the skull. They are buoyant and very skilled and graceful in water, and have recently been videotaped swimming in surf on the coast of East Africa. They feed on land mostly at night, consuming as much as 50 kg (approximately 120 pounds) of vegetation a day. Hippos are territorial; a male hippo often marks his territory along a riverbank from which to draw in a harem of females while defending it against other males. Male hippos challenge one another with threatening gapes.

The hippo is now extinct in Egypt but was a familiar animal of the Nile in pharaonic times. Even in the island of Malta, at Ghar Dalam (the Cave of Darkness) bone remains of hippopotamuses were found, being about 180,000 years old. Hippos are still found in the rivers of Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia, west to Gambia as well as in Southern Africa (Botswana, Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia). A separate population is in Tanzania and Mozambique.

Despite the popular image of the animal being easygoing and peaceful, the hippopotamus is actually one of the most dangerous African animals, said to account for more human deaths than any other mammal! Its canine teeth are 50 cm (20 inches) long, and it uses its head as a battering ram, especially against rival males fighting over territory. The animals stand 1.5 metres tall (5 feet) at the shoulder and weigh 1,500 kg up to 3,200 kg (3300 up to 7040 lb). They are approximately the same size as the White Rhinoceros and one or the other is is the next-largest land animal after the species of elephants.

The word hippopotamus comes, by way of Latin, from the ancient Greek ιππος ποταμος (hippos potamos), which means river horse.

The less familiar dwarf hippopotamus of West Africa, Hexaprotodon (Choeropsis) liberiensis is less specialized. It has longer legs and the orbits of its eyes are not raised above the roof of its skull. The pigmy hippo exists in two populations. One ranges in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire. The other population, with a different shape to the skull, ranged until recently in the Niger Delta but may now be extinct.

Three more species became extinct within the Holocene on Madagascar, one of them as recently as about a thousand years ago. Another dwarf species, Phanourios minutis , existed on the island of Cyprus but became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene. Whether this was caused by human intervention is debated (see Aetokremnos).

External links

Wikimedia Commons has multimedia related to Hippopotamus .

  • ITIS listing
    as of 2004-08-11
  • IUCN Pigs, Peccaries and Hippopotamus Specialist group

Last updated: 02-08-2005 09:29:53
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55