Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hippo is short for “hippopotamus” which, translated from Greek, means “river horse”. In spite of the origin of the name though, hippos are not actually found in Greece and they’re not related to horses. They’re found in sub-Saharan Africa and while they’re often said to resemble pigs, their nearest relatives by 60 million years, are in fact, whales.

Hippos sweat blood

From the ancient Greeks until fairly recently it was believed that hippos sweat blood. This belief was owing to the fact that they actually do secrete a red, oily substance. It isn’t “blood sweat” though. It’s a natural liquid that acts as a sunscreen, anti-bacterial agent and insect repellant. It also helps to soothe and accelerate the healing of wounds from fighting with one another.

Cantankerous herbivores

Hippos wallow in rivers by day and venture out at night to munch on vegetation. The menu generally consists of river plants and grass, meager in terms of nutritional value. So it’s important that they graze for hours at a time to get the nutrients they need. At dawn they lope back into the water and spend most of the day digesting, lazing and bickering. Sometimes they venture out for a snack but they never move too far away from the water.

Are hippos dangerous?

While “cute” to look at, hippos are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other large animals including lions, crocodiles, and great white sharks. Fundamentally wild, they’re exceedingly territorial and protective of their young. In spite of their bulk and short legs, they can outrun humans. They also have slightly webbed toes but this is not for swimming. Hippos don’t swim but move around easily in water by slowly galloping along the riverbed. While they are vegetarian and don’t necessarily want to eat humans, they will charge if threatened.

What it really means when a hippo yawns

There are several theories as to why hippos yawn. The most obvious is to indicate sleepiness. Some accounts suggest they might also yawn to intimidate enemies. Hippos have no known predators except humans but they do squabble among themselves. Another yawn theory is that gases formed in the stomach are released through the mouth. At other times, yawning is simply an invitation to play. Young hippos often romp around, shoving each other with their open mouths.

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