Like all living beings on Earth, the Hippopotamus needs to eat every day and maintain its diet to thrive. Though these prehistoric giants can grow up weigh up to 3 tons and stand up to feet tall, you might be surprised that their appetite is not as huge as their massive size. Here, discover how much do hippos eat, their diet, and eating patterns of the third-largest land mammal both in the wild and captivity.
How Much Does a Hippopotamus Eat?
Hippos consume very little amount as compared to their body size, eating only about 35 to 40 kilograms (77 to 88 pounds) of food per night, which only accounts for only 1 to 1.5 percent of their total body weight. As these mammals tend to stay in the water most of their time to keep themselves cool, they have a lower energy requirement and do not need to consume much food. In comparison, the American Pygmy Shrew eats thrice and the hummingbirds twice their weight to keep their extraordinary metabolism going.
What Does Hippotamus Eat?
A common misconception about Hippos is that they eat meat. No surprise as they are massive creatures who seem to need meat on their diet and to stay large. Yet, hippos are herbivores, which means they only rely on plant life for their diet.
Short grass is their main source of food, and they spend at least five hours each night grazing. Feeding usually starts as the sun does down. Once dusk has set, Hippos go to land to search for food and even travel up to five miles to find food. They pull the grass up with their lips, and tear vegetation with teeth and swallow it, instead of chewing.
While there are aquatic plants available and accessible in their preferred habitat, Hippos normally don’t eat them and prefer short grass on land, which is a behavior that still baffles experts nowadays. They will still consume aquatic vegetation though, should food on land become too scarce.
Though not fitted for carnivory, they are reports and sightings that hippos consume carrion, insects, or small animals during worst situations when they experience nutritional stress or when they can’t get the vegetation they need, es[ecially during drought. There are also incidents of cannibalism among the Hippos themselves when there is an extreme shortage of food. An aberrant behavior caused by the need for survival and a way for these mammals to limit the population.
Hippos in captivity have a wider range of food, which includes vegetables, brush, alfalfa, and hay. Occasionally, they are also given melons, watermelons, and pumpkins as treats. Zoos also provide them with vegetarian pellets that aim to fulfill their nutritional requirement.
What Do Young Hippos Eat?
Young hippos faced a lot of challenges. They easily compared to adults as they don’t get much moisture from vegetation, given that they suckle entirely during their first six months. Another concern is that if the mother doesn’t get enough food for herself, she also won’t produce enough milk for her young, affecting the offspring’s survival. It is only after the sixth month when young hippos will start to eat a few plants and by a year old, they will develop the instincts to graze and search for food.
How do Hippos Thrive with Their Diet?
Though they have a nutrition-poor diet, Hippos still thrive due to their special physical adaptations. They do not chew them like other grazing animals, such as sheep, cattle, bison, and deers, but they possess a longer intestinal tract and a multi-chambered stomach. That allows Hippos a pretty slower digestion rate to churn out all the nutrients from the vegetation they eat. allowing them to fuel up their massive frames.