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Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Hippopotamus amphibius

Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius) are large four-legged, even-toed, hoofed, huge-mouthed African mammals. Popularly called a "hippo," the hippopotamus has a barrel-shaped body and short, stubby legs. It belongs to the order Artiodactyla, and the family Hippopotamidae, which also includes the Pygmy Hippo and a number of extinct species.


Hippo Skull

Hippos may grow to 15 feet (4.5 meters) in length, 5 feet (1.5 meters) in height to the shoulder, and weigh 3-5 tons. The Hippopotamus is usually a slate brown color to a muddy brown color; and sometimes you can see a purplish color as well. They have thick, gray-black-pinkish, hairless skin that easily gets sunburned and dried out if they spend much time in the sun. The eyes and nostrils protrude, letting the animal spend most of the day underwater to stay cool and to prevent sunburn. Their skin weighs a lot, it's a 4cm thick, bullet-proof and is 25% of their weight. They have two distinct pigments that are red and orange, they are highly acidic compounds. The red pigment stops the growth of disease-causing bacteria. The light absorption of both of the pigments shows an ultraviolet color that creates a sunscreen effect. They have tusks and a bite that is so powerful that they can snap a canoe or crocodile in half.[1]

The much smaller pygmy hippopotamus is darker in color (greenish-black), and shorter (about 5 feet, or 1.5 meters, long).

Hippos have no sweat glands. To prevent their skin from cracking in the heat, the Creator has provided them with pores that secrete a dark pink protective fluid. This fluid acts as a natural skin conditioner and coats them with a glossy sheen. Pygmy hippos produce a similar clear fluid.


Hippos reproduce sexually. The dominant male out of the hippo herd (which is about 10-30 hippos in a herd) has the right to mate with all the females in his herd. The dominant male hippo will sometimes allow other males in or around his territory to mate. Pregnant females separate themselves from the herd as the time of birth comes closer. After a gestation period of about eight months, the mother hippo gives birth to a single young. The baby hippo often rides on the mother's back as she swims near the water's surface. Usually, hippo calves are born underwater, and they must quickly swim to the top of the water to catch their first breath. But then again they submerge underwater to nurse, the female hippo only gives birth to one hippo, they are around 8-9 pounds at birth. Males take part in fierce battles during the breeding season, which sometimes cause death to at least one of the hippos.


Hippos in lake in South-Africa

Hippos usually sleep during the day and are active at night, however, they are not nocturnal. Hippos live in groups in rivers and swamps and they mainly eat grasses along the shores of the rivers that they inhabit usually along West, Central, East, and South Africa rivers. Hippos are extremely graceful in the water, even though they have a clumsy look on land. Their certain gravity lets them sink to the bottom of their habitats and literally walk or run along the bottom of the river. Hippos are usually in groups up to 30 hippos, the male is usually the dominant one and the only male hippo in the group that determines where they go, where they live, etc.


Three species of hippos became extinct within the Holocene on Madagascar, one of them became extinct as recently as a thousand years ago. The dwarf species, Phanourious minutis, existed on the island of Cyprus but became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene. Whether this was caused by humans is very debatable. In 2005, the population of hippos in Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park had dropped to 800 or 900 individuals from around 29,000 in the mid 1970's, raising concerns about the possibility of that population. There were poachers from the Second Congo War that were believed to be former Hutu rebels, poorly paid soldiers and local militia groups. There were some reasons for poaching and one of them was that hippos are unintelligent, and that they are a harm to society, but also for money. [2]

Hippos and Behemoth

Main Article: Behemoth

The Bible's book of Job mentions a creature called Behemoth in chapter 40 (verses 15-24). William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (first published in 1863 - later expanded and revised) was an influential authority of the era it was published. Despite the Bible's description clearly not implying something small compared to a dinosaur like a hippopotamus, Smith knew of no other creature it could be. He confidently identified it as a hippo and his conclusion can be found under the headword "Behemoth", in which the entry states;

There can be little or no doubt that by this word (Job xl. 15-24) the hippopotamus is intended, since all the details descriptive of the behemoth accord entirely with the ascertained habits of that animal.[1]

James Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (first published in 1890) followed the line William Smith had taken. Strong translated Behemoth in his Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary as;

a water-ox, i.e. the hippopotamus or Nile-horse.

Strong's definition influenced the translators of the Authorized Standard Version of the Bible in 1901 to change "behemoth" to "hippopotamus" in the biblical text. However the modern and in actuality the most scientific and substantive approach when rendering the original languages into English such as the New American Standard Bible or NASB[2] are consistent with keeping the text as, "behemoth"[3].


  1. Be’hemoth Smith's Bible Dictionary by Heartlight, Inc.
  2. New American Standard Bible by The Lockman Foundation
  3. Job 40:15-24 New American Standard Bible. by Biblegateway

See Also