The hippopotamus is an artiodactyl mammal. This means that they are endowed with an even number of toes on each leg, of which the third and fourth are more developed and the others are reduced or atrophied. There are only two species of hippopotamus, the common hippo and the pygmy. The name “hippo” comes from the Greek word “hippopotamos”, which means river horse.
Of all the names that can be given to a hippo, however, “pigs” or “river buffalo” may have been the most talked about. After all, their appearance may somewhat remind us of the pig, and their temperament certainly reminds us of the buffalo. What’s more, we anticipate that it is not an animal at all tame and controllable.
There are many hippo attacks in the world every year, and their aggressiveness is noticeable and visible in many documentaries. But are hippos dangerous? For what is this? Today we will talk about them.
Are hippos aggressive?
The truth is that yes: hippos can be very aggressive animals. In fact, it is considered one of the most dangerous animals in the world. Other animals that are also considered aggressive, and that share their environment with hippos, such as alligators or crocodiles, rarely get involved with them and most of the time choose to respect their space.
One of the reasons they don’t even try is because the hippo is a territorial animal, but only in the water. While defecating, male hippos wag their tails from side to side to mark their territory, which is about 250 m wide. Mating rights are carried out in this space, which can include between 7 and 10 females.
When they are on land, it is something different. Hippos are calmer animals when on land, but they can become aggressive if there is a lack of food or water, and believe it or not, they are capable of amazing speeds. Although they are herbivorous animals that feed on terrestrial and aquatic plants, they are also capable of consuming meat, generally carrion, since their stomach tolerates it and is able to digest it without complications.
When a territorial fight breaks out, hippos can behave very aggressively, but these males don’t end up killing each other. Instead, what generally does happen is that they end up establishing which one is the strongest. There have been cases of females killing the dominant male, but this only happens if he tries to kill her offspring, as a result of overpopulation, for example.
Why do hippos attack humans?
In Africa, there have been significant cases of hippos attacking boats or people they encounter in the water. The reason is simple: hippos see humans as a threat to their environment, and in many cases this is true.
You should also remember that hippos are very territorial animals in the water. As such, if a human tries to stray into his territory, he will be able to see the aggressive side of this large mammal. This can also happen when females protect their young, becoming instinctively aggressive if they feel minimally threatened by a human.
Humans can also have trouble with a hippo that is hungry or thirsty, in which case the animal may attack. This is because the animal is under high levels of stress and attacks the human due to his natural aggressive instinct, feeling in danger. What is important to be clear is that a hippo would never attack a human for feeding on it.
Some interesting facts about the behavior of hippos
- Many experts believe that hippos have managed to survive for millions of years as a result precisely of their aggressive nature.
- In South Africa, a hippo fatally attacked his keeper after 7 years of friendly coexistence. It can be a very unpredictable animal.
- Hippos attack more people than other wild animals in their environment, including lions, tigers, and elephants.
- If a male hippo is not strong enough to defeat an alpha male, he will start his own herd, mark his own territory elsewhere, and defend him with the aggressiveness characteristic of the species.
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