World Hippo Day

World Hippo Day

Do you fancy wallowing in a mud bath and getting mad at tourists? Or maybe opening your mouth wide while opening your eyes really, really wide. World Hippo Day is a day to celebrate these water-loving animals.

Experts believe the modern-day African hippo was created around 8 million years ago in Africa. Although they look a lot like horses and pigs they are semi-aquatic mammals most closely related to dolphins, whales, and porpoises. It’s no surprise that they can hold their breath underwater. There are two types of hippos today: the bog-standard and smaller pygmy, although there were a few extinct species that could have been found in Europe as well as Madagascar just 1,000 years ago. These hippos are most prevalent in Zambia and Tanzania.

In the 20th Century, there were attempts to bring hippos into the United States. In 1910, the “American Hippo Bill” was introduced to allow hippo ranching to be established in Louisiana. This was to control a specific plant that was overtaking the bayous and to solve the American meat crisis. The bill was not passed by Congress. Hippos remained in Africa until Pablo Escobar, a notorious drug cartel leader, illegally imported four hippos to Columbia. Their numbers have increased tremendously since then, possibly to 100. Although the hippo is a prominent symbol of the region, their inability for management continues to pose significant problems for local authorities.

The hippo population is declining in Africa, however. After determining that the hippo population had decreased by up to 20% in the past two decades, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), listed them as a threatened species in 2006. The loss of habitat and hunting and poaching for ivory and meat by hippos is a serious threat.

World Hippo Day reminds people to value and celebrate these mud-loving mammals in the hope they will continue to exist for many years.

Hippopotamus, which loosely means “river horse”, is an Ancient Greek translation. This is a fitting name as these animals spend their entire lives in water and only leave at night to feed on grasses. They can hold their breath up to five minutes, so they can even give birth underwater. Hippos are able to keep their breaths in the water for as long as they like. They know when it’s time to breathe and blink, which is similar to how we humans do. These mammals spend a lot of time underwater but you might be surprised to find out that they don’t actually swim. They instead walk along the riverbed and push themselves up into the water to get air.

Hippos spend a lot of time submerged in water to keep their skin from cracking and drying out under the scorching sun. They also love to play in the mud because it keeps them cool. The hippo goes further than that to protect itself against the sun’s rays by secreting an acidic substance which acts as a natural sunscreen. This clever protection mechanism, which is reddish-brown when exposed to air, blocks UV rays and prevents the growth potentially dangerous bacteria.

Hippos are known for their large size. Only elephants and rhinos rank ahead of them in terms of land mammals. A male adult can weigh in at nearly 2,000kg, and still run at almost 20mph. Hippos are dangerous due to their aggressive nature and large canine teeth. Many hippos have attacked boats, causing injuries and even death. It is important to take great care when you encounter them in the wild.

Hippos have been long celebrated in Africa. They are revered by Zulu soldiers for their bravery and often feature in African folktales. This long-standing tradition can be continued by celebrating World Hippo Day.

The best way to celebrate World Hippo Day, is to see them in person. Visit your local zoo, safari park or aquarium to see the hippo exhibit. You can get up close to hippos and help conservation efforts by looking at their fascinating exhibits. It’s worth having a peg to backup you in case their enclosures get too smelly.

Go on safari if you are an animal lover who is able to travel. Many companies offer safari tours and holidays with experienced guides, so you can see all the wildlife in Africa’s grasslands, savannahs, and wetlands, including hippos.

There are many ways to experience these large animals, even if you can’t see them in person. You can find wildlife paintings and photography at your local gallery, or you can search the internet for images, documentaries, and video clips.

You can have children, or even your entire adult life! Hungry, Hungry hippos is a fun game that you can play with your kids. The game involves each player getting their hippos to eat as many marbles as they can from the pond. It has been popular since the 70s. You can give it a try and see how your friends and family fare. Hippos can also be seen in a variety songs and films. Disney’s Fantasia has a ballet-dancing hippos, while Madagascar features Gloria the hippo and her three friends being transported from Central Park Zoo into the country. Gayla Peevey’s song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” was a huge hit in 1950s. Flanders and Swann also wrote a few hippo-themed songs, including “Hippo Encore”, which includes the famous line, “Mud mud, glorious mud!” There are plenty of options for a movie evening or singalong!

If you want to ensure that there is hope for the hippo, you can donate to a charity that helps these animals.


Feb 15 2025


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