The river-horse of the Okavango Delta

Close-up of hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.

Written by Alexander Holmgren

The word hippopotamus comes from ancient Greek meaning “river horse” and this sturdy animal is the third largest land dwelling mammal in the world. It spends half of its time submerged in large groups in bodies of water such as rivers or lakes taking mud baths to keep itself cool in the hot African day. At dusk, as the sun begins to fall, the hippopotamus will depart from the water to graze on grass and other vegetation before returning to the water.  What’s interesting however, is that the hippopotamus is more closely related to whales or dolphins than any other mammal.

Hippo’s have a highly adapted head. The primary sensory structure including the eyes, nose, and ears are all located on the top of the head allowing the Hippo to peer out of the water while still completely submerged. In the picture provided a hippopatmus shows its massive mouth, with teeth that grow almost continuously throughout it’s life, sharpen through grinding, and jaws that can open to almost 180 degrees the hippopotamus is well equipped to defending itself from predators.

Gaping maw of a hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) in the Chobe National Park in Botswana. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.


Herd of hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) with African buffalo (Syncerus caffeer) in the background at Chobe National Park. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.

Author: mongabay

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