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Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibus) are large, semiaquatic hoofed mammals that live near rivers and lakes in central and southeastern Africa. They have bulky bodies and short legs. They are good swimmers and can remain underwater for five minutes or more. Their nostrils, eyes, and ears sit atop their head so that they can almost entirely submurged their head while still being able to see, hear, and breath.

The skin of a hippo has a very thin outer layer that readily dries and is sensitive to flies and insects. They wallow in water to keep their skin moist and escape bothersome insect pests. Hippopotamuses have a body density that is slightly greater than water, enabling them to sink gently and walk on the bottom of the lake or river. By inflating their lungs with air, they float with little effort.

Hippos are mainly active during the night. They sleep during the day and feed on grasses along river edges during the night. They also graze on grasses on dry land.


Range and Habitat:

Hippos once roamed throughout all of sub-Saharan Africa but now their populations are greatly restricted. They are common along the Nile river valley in East Africa. Hippos inhabit rivers, swamps, and lakes. They prefer deeper waters where reed beds and grasses grow along the shoreline.


Burnie D, Wilson DE. 2001. Animal. London: Dorling Kindersley. 624 p.

Shefferly, N. 2001. Hippopotamus amphibius. Animal Diversity Web. September 14, 2009.


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