Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)


Hippos are large semi-aquatic animals and are considered the third largest animal on earth after the elephant and rhino. On average males measure around 3m long and are 1.5m tall, and can weigh up 2.000kg.  

Hippos spend most of their time submerged in the water to keep cool but can also be found "sunbathing" on the Luangwa riverbanks or near waterholes in the cooler months (may - august). They secrete a reddish coloured oily mucus which hydrates and protects their skin, acting like sunblock. 

Hippos are herbivores and will eat mostly grass or algae. They eat around 35kg of food everyday and are most active at night when they go out of the water to forage. would survive with eating below 5% of body weight. predominantly inactive and live in water so metabolism is slow. 

Seeing a hippo yawn is usually a sign of dominance. Males, for example, are very protective of their group and will warn off potential rivals by showing off their huge canines, thus looking like they are yawning. This is usually accompanied by loud grunting noises and splashing of excrements in the water. 

Hippos can live to be about 40 years old in the wild. 

The hippo gestation period lasts 8 months and babies are born active. Females give birth in shallow water and keep their baby away from other hippos for at least 3 weeks. If they went back to the group too soon the young one could be either killed by a male fighting another male in a display of dominance, or they may be unintentionally crushed by other hippos. 

Fun Fact: According to a Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment study the Luangwa river is home to over 60% of the world's population of hippos.


Facts and pictures taken by Kelvin Zulu, Luangwa Wildlife Magazine photographer and expert safari guide. Article written by Luangwa Wildlife Magazine editor-in-chief and wildlife journalist Mahina Perrot.. Contributions (articles and/or pictures) are welcome and can be sent to info@luangwawildlife.com. For advertising enquiries, email us at advertising@luangwawildlife.com.