Following the elephant and rhinoceros, hippos are the third-largest terrestrial animal on planet. Hippopotamuses are roughly 1.5 meters tall and weigh between 1,500 and 1,800 kg as adults.
The majority of hippos you see in a national park where they live are in the water and not actively foraging. This raises the issue of what hippopotamuses consume. As the third-largest land mammal, it must eat.
This is because they eat all night long. Even while you may witness a few hippos nibbling on the side of a river throughout the day, this only makes up a very small amount of their daily diet.
We’ll examine what a hippopotamus consumes in this article, along with its feeding habits.
Hippos Habits And Biology
This semi-aquatic ungulate is the third biggest land animal in the world after elephants and rhinoceroses, standing around 5 feet (1.5 m) tall at the shoulders and weighing between 3,300 and 4,000 (1,500 – 1,800 kg). In captivity, some males can weigh as much as 5,000 to 8,000 pounds (2,270 – 3,630 kg).
Hippos are typically between 9.5 and 16.5 feet (3 and 5 meters) long, with a tail that may reach a length of between 0.3 and 0.5 meters. It is a large, spherical animal with short legs, purple-gray or brownish skin, and scanty hair.
The Pygmy hippo, on the other hand, weighs barely a sixth as much as the Common hippo. With a tail that is 6 inches (15 cm) long, it is around 60 inches (1.5 m) long. Its skin has a bottom portion that is grayish-white and a back that is greenish-black.
Hippos are currently considered to be a fragile and even endangered species, with just 2,000–3,000 Pygmy hippos and an estimated 115,000–130,000 Common hippos remaining in the wild.
In the wild, hippos have a life expectancy of 35 to 50 years. Pygmy hippos survive 40 to 45 years in controlled care, although the most common hippos can live up to 60 years in captivity.
Despite spending at least 16 hours a day in the water, this mammoth is not at all a good swimmer. It’s interesting to note that hippos always decide to leave the water and eat on the ground.
These aquatic animals often reside in communities known as schools, though you may also hear the words siege, bloat, and pod. Although it is not uncommon to witness up to 200 people living together, each school typically has between 10 and 30 male and female students.
A Common hippo mother gives birth to one calf after an eight-month gestation period that weighs between 50 and 110 pounds (22.5 to 50 kg), but a Pygmy hippo calf only weighs 13 pounds (6 kg). A newborn can live for almost 35 years until being completely developed at the age of 5 to 7.
Hippos are boisterous, aggressive, and extremely deadly creatures, despite the way that cartoons depict them as adorable ballerinas. An mature male, for example, may easily crush a human head between his molars.
While common hippos are found across sub-Saharan Africa, pygmy hippos are primarily found in Liberia. Those creatures are not now in risk of going extinct. Unfortunately, the growth of the Sahara Desert and human activities make this situation more likely in the future, leading to the loss of their habitat in sub-Saharan Africa.
What Does the Hippopotamus Eat?
In the wild, the hippopotamus largely feeds on plants. The vast bulk of their diet appears to consist of grasses, which are supplemented with nutrient-rich fruits. They also seem to appreciate short shoots and reeds that emerge from the ground, although aquatic plants appear to make up an incredibly minor portion of their diet.
In contrast, pygmy hippos consume a greater percentage of leaves and roots than grasses. It’s been reported that common hippos occasionally consume dead animals, although it’s unclear how frequently this truly happens in the wild.
It was always believed that because hippopotamuses’ stomachs are not designed for eating meat, they only scavenge for it in extreme cases of food scarcity. A 2015 scientific research contends that the hippo’s meat-eating habits are actually a small portion of a much bigger pattern and go beyond simple carcass scavenging.
Wildebeests, zebras, and kudus appear to be among the most frequent victims of the hippo, who has been known to assault and consume other animals as well as take prey from other predators. Even instances of cannibalism amongst members of the same species have been seen.
The research contends that contrary to what has generally been believed, hippo’s digestive tract does not prevent them from consuming meat, and that carnivorous behavior is underreported since it is challenging to witness them feeding at night.
Even the most ferocious predator would abandon its prey if it encountered a charging hippo, thus the common hippo (though not necessarily the pygmy hippo) is definitely big and violent enough to take down just about any other animal. However, hunting uses a lot of energy, which the hippo tries to avoid.
If the study is accurate, it seems likely that the hippo kills other animals when the chance arises rather than going out of its way to hunt them. Without more research, it is difficult to declare with certainty either way.
Regardless of the precise makeup of their diets, it is assumed that they ingest at least 1% of their daily body weight. Considering that the average hippo may weigh anywhere from 2,800 to over 10,000 pounds, this can equate to from 30 to 150 pounds of food, which occasionally deprives vast regions of grass and shoots.
The hippo is a sedentary mammal that spends the most of the day lazing around in the mud or water, using little to no energy in the process. For a semi-aquatic creature, the hippo cannot swim or even float, which is surprising. Simply put, their bodies are too hefty. Instead, they appear to be standing or walking on the water’s surface.
Feeding adaptations of Hippos
Because a hippo’s alimentary canal is lengthy, digestion proceeds more slowly. This extends the amount of time the body needs to absorb all the essential nutrients needed to keep the hippo alive and survive for extended periods of time between feedings.
Hippopotamuses spend a lot of time in the water and can only eat for longer periods of time in the evening since their multi-chambered stomachs can store food for a long time.
What Do Hippos Eat In The Wild?
A Hippo’s major source of food in the wild is the short, common savannah grass, which it grazes on every evening. The majority of a hippos’ food is composed of grass, with the remainder being made up of certain fruits, tender shoots, and reeds.
Hippos may emerge from the water during the day to graze on the grasslands next to a river or lake. Hippos go several kilometers away from the river to graze at night, but these areas of grass close to the water are known as “hippo lawns.”
Hippos don’t eat any water vegetation because they only eat on land.
What Do Hippos Like To Eat Most?
The typical hippo may search for food up to 2 miles (3 km) from the water source, but no more than 6 miles (9.5 km) away. Depending on gender and age, each cow will consume between 80 and 150 pounds (36 and 68 kg) of grass each night.
An adult male is thought to be able to consume between 1 and 2.5 percent of his body weight, or at least 90 pounds (41 kg), of grass at once. A lengthy digestive tract provides for slower processing and longer absorption of essential nutrients.
A calve (baby hippo) enters the world weighing an astonishing 90 pounds (41 kg), and they need a lot of nourishment right away. For six to eight months, the infant will be breastfed underwater, but three weeks after birth, it will begin to eat grass.
Unfavorable conditions allow hippopotamuses to store food in their multi-chambered stomachs and go three weeks without eating. Typically, this behemoth will consume:
The greatest risk that hippos face is dehydration. A few hours without water will also seriously endanger their health. Keep in mind that a calf loses water quicker than an adult since it cannot access plants for water.
It’s interesting to note that while you may observe this animal eating watermelon at the zoo, it never does so in the wild. It’s easy to understand why. In their native environments, watermelons are not found.
Despite being herbivores, hippos occasionally eat animal corpses, even those of fellow hippopotamuses. When food supplies are few, scientists have proven that this species can consume meat, but it is not a normal part of their diet.
Do hippos eat meat?
Although hippos are typically thought to eat grass, a recent study appears to refute this notion.
In a study he submitted in the African Journal of Ecology, PhD candidate Leejiah Dorward gave a comprehensive account of seeing two hippos graze on a dead crocodile carcass. The first confirmed instance dates back to 1995, when Dr. Joseph Dudley of the University of Alaska visited Zimbabwe’s Hwangwe National Park.
Dr. Keith Eltringham affirmed that hippos can consume meat due to a lack of nutrients, particularly in situations when there are few food sources.
Numerous additional instances have been reported in which it is claimed that they allegedly forcefully slice down on the flesh as a means of ‘killing’ the animal that has bothered them. to ensure that the animal dies and is dismembered in many parts.
Aside from these instances, it is still generally believed that hippos have a “herbivore-like” digestive tract and are thus herbivores. Don’t get your hopes up just yet that you’ll encounter a carnivorous hippo.
The hippo is actually the most deadly wild animal in the African savannah due to its ability to tear apart most creatures, including lions and crocodiles. Yes, a hippopotamus poses a greater threat than a lion.
You may read our post on some fascinating facts about hippos for additional information on these animals and why you shouldn’t meddle with them.
Do Hippos Eat Dirt?
Hippos don’t like aquatic vegetation and never feed in the water. Even though this animal likes to live in groups, it will never eat with others. It feeds on grass, reeds, and green shoots at night, which is when it is most active.
Before ingesting, this animal will rip the grass with its teeth and draw it up with its mouth. The preferred activity for it is not chewing. Additionally, it will never eat the earth or hidden roots and will always stay away from coarse grass with strong roots.
Do Hippos Eat Watermelon In The Wild?
Hippopotamuses in the wild have the same ability to consume watermelon as those in zoos, yet they do not. There isn’t any watermelon in nature.
You are not permitted to feed any wildlife, including hippos, while you are in the wild. You and the hippos’ health and safety are both affected by this.
You will be informed not to feed the wild animals and that you cannot bring watermelon for the hippos on any safari.
When do hippos feed?
In water reserves like lakes and rivers, hippopotamuses spend the day. Around nightfall, when the sun is setting and the temperature is starting to fall, they come out of the water. Both hippopotamus species are nocturnal; they sleep and relax during the day and eat at night.
A hippopotamus may graze or browse for food for around four to six hours at night, eating anywhere from 40kg to 68kg of food. This isn’t much, given their size and weight. It merely makes up roughly 1.5% of the body weight of a typical hippopotamus.
Hippopotamuses lead essentially sedentary lives; they wallow in the water all day and don’t move much until they get out to feed at night. As a result, they don’t need to eat frequently or in huge quantities since they store the majority of their energy.
How do baby hippos feed?
The typical newborn hippo weighs 40 kilos. This is a huge size that requires a lot of food.
Hippos’ calves may feed on their moms underwater to get milk. They continue to eat when immersed while closing their eyes and nostrils.
At three weeks old, baby hippos begin to eat grass. Up until they are 8 months old, when they can begin to graze safely apart from their mother, calves continue to nurse.
How Does the Hippopotamus Eat Its Food?
The hippopotamus feeds at night. It travels the same foraging route every day, emerging from the water as twilight falls and settling in a grassy area close to the waterbed. The grazing grounds are referred to as “hippo lawns,” and these are known as “hippo trails.” Each group or person tends to be distinctive in both areas.
They will move a few kilometers away from the water hole if food is very short, but they prefer to stay as near to the resting location as they can. They are able to discover edible food wherever it may be by using their keen sense of smell. They are also skilled enough to hear surrounding fruit dropping.
The highly developed muscles in the hippo’s lips allow them to pluck leaves from a plant or dig out food from the ground when grazing. To avoid any nutrient loss, the hippo will actually soften the meal in its mouth without chewing.
Although they do have incisor and canine teeth, it seems that they are more suited for self-defense than eating, with the exception of when they devour flesh. Each night, it spends around six hours grazing. Just before daybreak, the hippo will finish and head back to its watering hole.
Food Avoid To Feed Hippos
Hippos are herbivorous animals, as I’ve already said, thus they don’t consume meat. However, occasionally these creatures are compelled to eat by terrible conditions and weather:
Meat from other animals
Depending on the group, it could be an unusual or frequent activity. A meat diet may become the norm in some populations of hippos, but no one knows why this has happened. They cannot consume meat because of their anatomy and gut flora, and only severe nutritional stress may cause them to behave in such a harmful way.
According to some experts, hippos’ unwillingness to consume human flesh is the sole thing keeping them from being voracious carnivores. To put it another way, those who can eat meat will do so.
There you have it, then. information about the eating habits and diet of hippos. Hippos are fascinating for a lot more reasons than just what they consume.
This page, which is rather popular, provides a collection of more than 37 fascinating facts about hippos. Discover information about their size, conservation status, seeing locations, and risk level as the most hazardous animal in the African Savannah.