Round, cuddly, adorable – at first glance, one would say that hippos are harmless and peace-loving creatures who would choose to spend most of their time napping in the water. And they are – until you unmindfully cross their territory.
Hippos’ looks are pretty deceiving. What may seem cute and sleepy yawn could be, in fact, an indicator that something has caught their attention and they are about to activate ‘defensive mode.’ By ‘defensive mode,’ we mean that the moody African mammal is about to charge with full force. Don’t get them wrong, though. Hippo’s hostility and aggression are only natural responses, being territorial creatures.
Hippos walk underwater.
As semi-aquatic creatures, hippopotamuses love to submerge in the water despite not being unable to swim. Yep, you read that right. Hippos cannot even do a proper floating due to their weight!
Hippos dive into the water and walk on the river’s floor to navigate their water territories. These African mammals in a wet suit can travel approximately 8 km/h (5mph) across rivers and marshes while underwater using their webbed feet. From time to time, they rise to get some air.
During these underwater travels, fish sometimes flock around hippos to feed on the beast’s outer skin as well as their mouth. Hippos are herbivores. So, they pose no threat to the sea creatures and maintain an ecological relationship with them. Further, hippos remain underwater to avoid the sun (which they hate, obviously).
Hippos are a force to reckon.
Despite being portrayed as calm and cuddly creatures in cartoon TV shows, real-life hippos are not to be messed with. Not to ruin anybody’s childhood, but hippos outrank the dreaded sharks as a human-killer – making them one of the deadliest land animals on the planet. A study verified that at least 500 people fall victim to hippo’s rage in the wildlands of Africa per year! It’s quite a wonder that shark attacks are more famous than hippo beatings. Kidding aside, these aggressive beasts certainly have no chill. But, they are indeed calm, carefree beings — they won’t attack anyway if you let them be.
Hippos run, but how?
The average weight of an adult human being is 60 kilograms – almost as heavy as a newborn hippo. So, you can imagine how dense a hippo’s body can get when it reaches adulthood. An adult male hippo grows up to a so-so 1000 kilograms on average, but note that some gain a whopping 4000-kilogram weight! The size varies according to gender, as female hippos weigh less and stand slightly smaller than male ones.
This size and body composition allow hippos to achieve incredible and sometimes devastating feats. However, their size limits them from doing certain things such as jumping (they can’t lift their four feet off the ground) and staying afloat. When hippos run, it is more like a trot – a cute, tiny little speed run, but also scary at the same time.
Run, hippo, run.
You are probably wondering how hippos can charge at such power and tackle their enemies to death. Well, despite their rounded shape and large stature, hippos’ speed is pretty impressive. The incredible speed plus their massive weight give them enormous inertia to cause severe damage to those they hit with their formidable skull. They may appear bloated and slow, but hippos can take up to 30 km/h (19 mph) on land. An average male human being can run 5.9 mph, while a woman can do a 5.0-mph run. So, if you ever dare irritate an innocent hippo, good luck running for your life – literally.
Burst of speed.
If hippos can speak, we might hear them saying, “Move, or you will be moved.” Unless, of course, they charge at you first without warning because in that case, they’d say, “Well, you didn’t see it coming.” Underestimating hippos because of their size and weight can be their opponent’s downfall. Hippos are capable of summoning bursts of speed, even if only absolutely needed. They can do it even in a short distance and time frame. With their enormous weight and car-like speed, they usually take out threats by surprise. As a downside, hippos lack great stamina, and they can sustain their 30 km/h speed for only half a minute.
Hippos made it to the Threatened Species list, meaning that their population is slowly beginning to drop. Some of the major causes are poaching, destruction of their habitat, land degradation, and global warming – most of these causes are on us. Yes, hippos are one of the deadliest land animals on the planet, but that does not mean they should receive the hate. Like human beings and all other animals, hippos possess unique abilities and strengths to protect themselves and their habitat.
Fortunately, several organizations have been working on preserving these adorable beasts, as everyone should. It is difficult to imagine the African wildlife without these carefree, yawning, big-mouthed water-lords resting in their river territories, right?