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The term, “Hippopotamus” has been derived from two Greek words, Hippo meaning horse and potamos meaning river. That is why it is also known as, “River Horse”. After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest type of land mammal and the heaviest extant artiodactyl. Hippos are distantly related to whales and probably share a common ancestor, the now extinct line of “hoofed predators” that contained the famous “wolf-sheep” Andrewsarchus.
The female Hippos give birth to a baby calf one at a time within a time span of two to three years. Before and after giving birth, the expecting mother isolates herself for a time period of 10 to 44 days along with the baby. The mother then nurses the baby for 12 months, stays by it in the early years and protects it. Just like other mammals the female Hippos feed their babies with their own milk, but one thing that differentiates the Hippo’s milk with others’ is its color.
Yes, it is true the color of Hippo’s milk is bright pink. The reason why it is pink is that hippo secretes two kind of unique acids called “Hipposudoric acid” and “Norhipposudoric acid“. The two acids got their names from the word Hippopotamus.
The Hipposudoric acid is reddish in color and often known as, “Blood Sweat” (hipposudoric, referring to hippo sweat), although its neither blood nor sweat. While the other, Norhipposudoric acid is bright orange. Both these acids are strong enough to minimize the growth of the bacteria on the Hippo’s skin. These acids also act as a sunscreen for the Hippo’s skin as they absorb the UV rays that destroy the skin cells. In a milking Hippo the two acids get combined with the white milk and thus pink colored milk is ejected. So the formula is simple:
White + Red = Pink
Hippos are the only mammals that produce pink milk; there were many who believed that Yak’s milk is also pink but the fact is that when a Yak gives birth to a calf, the first milk produced contains blood that gives it a pink color and is known by the name of “Beastings”. After some time the milk turns back to the usual white color.
Besides the pink color of the milk there are some other interesting facts regarding Hippos that you may find interesting:
- A single cup of Hippo’s milk has 500 calories.
- Hippos give Birth to their babies under water to protect them from falling; as soon as the baby is born it swims upward to catch air. So the first thing that the Hippo’s baby learns is swimming. A newborn baby weighs about 42 kg that is almost 93 pounds.
- The milk of a Hippo can also be ejected below the surface of the water, unlike other mammals. The baby hippos take a deep breath, close their ears and nostrils and then tightly wrap up their tongue around the teat and suckle their mother’s milk. However, the production of the Hippo’s milk is similar to the Cow’s milk and also the factors reducing the production are also similar.
- Hippopotamus live in groups and there are usually 10 to 30 hippos in a herd. It’s not just the mother Hippo that looks after her babies but also the other females in the bloat take turns in looking after them. The baby Hippo matures at an age of 7 and females reach their reproductive age by 5 to 6 years.
- The earliest Hippopotamus fossil is believed to be found 16 million years back in Africa. It has an age span of 40-45 years, whereas the oldest hippo died at the age of 62 named Donna.
- Usually when Hippos yawn it is a threatening sign by them. The texture of the teeth is similar to the tusks of the elephants, that means they are also made up of ivory and they can grow up to 1 foot. George Washington’s false teeth were made up of ivory carved out of hippos’ teeth.
- It is the 3rd largest mammal found on land, after Elephant and Rhinoceros. There are 2 species of hippos found, one is the common hippo also known as Hippopotamus amphibious; it is found in East Africa. The other one is pygmy hippopotamus or Choeropsis liberiensis and it is found in West Africa, and is also rare.
- Hippos cannot jump but they can easily outrun humans and on average run at a speed of 30 k/h. It is categorized among the most aggressive species of the world as it has killed the most number of humans as compared to other the animals.
- Hippos are herbivores; a baby hippo starts eating grass at the age of 3 weeks.
- Hippos can eat up to 150 pounds of grass overnight and can live under water for more than 30 minutes.