The hippopotamus is one of the most unique creatures on the planet today. When they sit along the shore of a river, they’ll actually produce an oily, red substance from their bodies. It was once thought that this substance was blood and that hippos would sweat it out of their bodies. Scientists have discovered, however, that this substance is actually a skin softener that provides protection against the sun and maybe even some germs.
1. Sleep Walking to the Extreme
Unlike other animals that like to live in the water, hippos can’t hold their breath for long periods of time. They have to come to the surface about every 5 minutes in order to get a good, deep breath. If a hippo falls asleep in the water, this need to surface to breathe doesn’t go away. Hippos will actually rise to the surface every few minutes to breathe, even when they are asleep, and then slip back underwater when they’ve had enough air.
2. It’s All About the Water
Hippos are considered territorial creatures, but it is only when there is water involved. Hippos use water for the birthing process and for mating. Baby hippos actually feed underwater and have the ability to close off their ears and their nostrils to the water. Hippo moms only have a calf once every other year at most and the family sticks together very closely so the babies aren’t a tempting hippo steak for lions, crocodiles, or hyenas.
3. Faster Than Usain Bolt
Hippos might look a bit portly and they might waddle just a bit when they walk, but don’t let that fool you. The average hippo is going to outrun the average human on any given day. Over short distances, hippos have been known to run as fast as 30 kilometers per hour. Just as King Tut. It’s believed that he was hunting hippos one day on the Nile River and one bit his leg, potentially breaking it. This Egyptian Pharaoh could have even died because of the hippo bite.
4. Just Like a Cow
Hippos might prefer the water and their living animal relatives might be whales and porpoises, but their evolutionary tract took a different route. Instead of living and eating in the rivers or the sea, they prefer to graze on pasture grasses. The average hippo will eat about 70 kg of grass every day in order to support itself. Compared to most other big animals, hippos actually eat very little food, even if it looks like they hit the all you can eat grass buffet every day.
5. Who Needs the Land?
Hippos might feed off the land, but they definitely prefer the water. They’ll spend up to 16 hours per day just floating in the water. They also love to swim and are very proficient swimmers. Most of the water time is to avoid the hot African sun because their huge bodies would overheat quickly without the extra protection.
Hippos have been classified as a vulnerable animal, but don’t think that makes them passive. If you see a hippo in the wild, learn the lesson from King Tut: don’t provoke it.