Not so gentle giant

The general picture of a hippopotamus is of a huge, heavy beast wallowing in a muddy pool, occasionally opening its big mouth in what looks like a giant yawn.

However, the hippo, whose closest living relatives are whales and porpoises, is actually one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and considered by many to be the most ferocious animal in Africa. More humans are killed by hippos than by any other animal.

Did you know?:

Despite weighing up to four tons and having short stubby legs, the hippo is faster than Usain Bolt over short distances.

The adult hippo is not buoyant and cannot swim. In deep water it propels itself along by pushing off from the bottom in a sort of ‘leaps and bounds’ motion.

Baby hippos are born underwater and can swim. They lose this ability as they grow older.

Hippos usually remain under water for about five minutes and then surface to breathe. A sleeping hippo will automatically rise to the surface to breathe without waking up.

The average lifespan of a hippo is 40 to 50 years. The oldest recorded hippo, called Tanga, died in 1995 at the ripe old age of 61 years.

Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar kept four hippos on his estate near Medellín. After his demise, his estate was not maintained and the authorities decided the animals were too difficult to capture and move. By 2007, number of hippos on the estate had risen to sixteen.

The hippo secretes a natural sunscreen which starts off red and then turns brown.

Around 300 people die each year as a result of being attacked by hippos.

Turtles and baby crocodiles have been seen sunbathing on the backs of hippos.

Hippos are one of the noisiest animals in Africa, being registered at 115 decibels.

Collective nouns for hippos include pod, bloat and seige.

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