08 November, 2005

The Hippopotamus

The hippopotamus, is a herbivorous mammal found in tropical Africa. It is said to be a relative of: camels, pigs and deer; I do not know how true that is. Recent studies say, they are related to whales. The hippo, lives a double life - staying in water during the day and rarely venturing out; and after sunset, the hippos file out to graze. Hippos, prefer to stay wet; wether it is mating, playing, fighting or giving birth - the hippo is wet. Much of their time is spent standing or swimming underwater, where they feed on aquatic plants; they must rise to breathe every five minutes or so.

Hippos make a variety of sounds: grunts, growls, screams and other sounds, even under water - to communicate with each other. Sometimes hundreds of hippos will share the same territory of water during the day; but, they usually live in herds of about fifteen animals.

The enormous hippopotamus, has short legs and a broad body with a tough gray or brown hide. The male stands about five feet high at the shoulder and can weigh almost five tons; the female is slightly smaller. Hippos, have huge mouths and teeth; a bull hippo's canines can grow to twenty-eight inches long, and their mouths can open four feet wide! The eyes are near the top of the head, so the animal can see even when nearly submerged.

The pygmy hippopotamus, is found in W. Africa. It is about thirty inches tall at the shoulder and weighs about four hundred pounds. It tends to be solitary and spends much of its time on the shore, sleeping by day in thickets.

From 1972 to 1983, I lived in Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya; it is close to Lake Victoria. Just a short distance from the center of the city, one can easily see many hippos. It is in Kisumu where, I, several times looked very closely at the hippopotamus at very close range, in front of car lights - at nights. It is huge! And ugly!

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/

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