That the fierce-looking hippopotamus is actually herbivorous in nature, is bound to come as a surprise for most people. However, it is cent percent true. In fact, the hippo is one of the largest animals in the list of herbivorous animals. Several interesting facts about this animal continue to elude people; its eating habit being one of them.
Hippopotamus: General Information
Hippos are herbivorous mammals native to the continent of Africa. They are generally found in rivers and lakes of the grasslands of West Africa and East-Central Africa. Hippos are the second largest mammals on the land, next only to the elephants. Standing 5 ft tall and 11 to 17 ft long, an adult hippo can weigh anywhere between 3,000 to 4,000 lbs. But obviously, their large size also contributes to their unusual appetite. Being semi-aquatic animals, they spend most of the time of the day lazing in water bodies and come out for feeding only after dusk. While they have an average lifespan of 40 to 50 years, several individuals are known to make it to 55. Though they come across as quite lazy and docile, hippos are known to be very aggressive towards humans.
What Does a Hippo Eat?
Hippos feed on a wide variety of vegetation that grows in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their diet predominantly consists of grass, but they are also known to feed on fruits, leaves, nuts, etc. As they are semi-aquatic, they also feed on several aquatic plants and reeds that are found in their natural habitat. They have an amazing ability of holding their breath and staying under the water for extended periods. It is during this time that they resort to aquatic plants and reeds. Though rarely, hippos are also known to feed on small animals and animal carcasses. They prefer spending time lazing in the water or basking on the banks of the river throughout the day.
They move out of water only during the nighttime in order to search for food. This is where their voracious feeding habit comes into the picture. A herd of hippos eats a hundred lbs of vegetation in one go. On an average, they graze for four to five hours every night and cover approximately a mile or two in this while. Though they prefer to stay close to the water hole, hippos are known to wander as far as six miles in search of food.
Found all over Africa at one point of time, the hippo population is now restricted to a few regions in East Africa. The drastic fall in their population can be attributed to the large-scale hunting and loss of habitat. Hippos have lately featured on the poacher's radar owing to their soft ivory tusks. Human encroachment in their natural habitat has resulted in loss of habitat for them. Besides this, they are also killed by the locals for their meat. As a result of the considerable decline in hippo population in this region, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared it a vulnerable species.