These enormous animals (Hippopotamus amphibius) spend much of their time in water, where they keep cool out of the hot sun and take the weight off their legs. Hippopotamuses lie in the water with only their nostrils, eyes and ears above the surface, and they can also submerge for up to 30 minutes, while walking on the bottom of the river or lake. At night they leave their watery refuge in search of grass, sometimes travelling more than 3km from water.

Large males set up territories along riverbanks, which they defend against other males. Although neighbouring territory-holders are usually peaceful, confrontations sometimes occur. When this happens, the males challenge each other with displays, including lunging, splashing, scattering dung with their short tails and displaying their tusks with great yawns of their mouths. If neither male backs off, fighting occurs, and sometimes they attack each other with their tusks - which can lead to fatal injuries.

Males are usually aggressive towards any intruders into their territories, including young hippos. Females are aggressive when they have young, and many consider hippos to be among the most dangerous of African mammals.


ARKive photos and videos of the hippopotamus

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