Adorable Baby Hippo Facts That Will Melt Your Heart
Hippos are angry, aggressive and dangerous. They're also undeniably cute. With small ears and a permanent smile, it's difficult not to let these animals take over your heart — especially when they are babies.
What are hippos like when they are young? Learn more about baby hippos with these fun facts that will make you love the species even more.
Hippos Are Pregnant for 8 Months
Some mammals, like elephants, can have a gestation period of 22 months (imagine that!).
But a hippo's pregnancy tends to last one month less than that of humans.
And Female Hippos Need to Recover
Giving birth is challenging, regardless of species.
After doing so, female hippos give themselves a break, not mating again for about 17 months.
Baby Hippo Twins Exist
Though very rare, it is possible for hippo twins to be born. As with humans, this prevents higher risks of complications.
Even after birth, it can be difficult for a mother hippo to care for two babies at once.
RELATED: Surprising Facts About Baby Sea Turtles
But Twins Rarely Survive
Sadly, when two hippos are born at the same time, one of them is very likely to die before reaching maturity.
Humans have only observed the birth of five hippo twins, and they both survived in only one instance.
Water Births Are the Norm
Water births for humans are seen as "alternative" in the U.S., but they are the norm for hippos.
Rather than being surrounded by their float (a hippo herd), female hippos go away on their own and find a spot in shallow water. They give birth alone and stay with their calf for a couple of days before returning to the group.
Like Ducks in the Water
Given how they enter this world, it's no surprise that baby hippos are immediately comfortable in the water.
However, like adult hippos, they can't swim or float. Instead, they walk around the bottom of rivers and then push themselves to the surface to breathe.
No swimming lessons necessary.
Sleeping With the Fishes
Staying in the water helps hippos avoid predators. Evolution has worked its magic and made it possible for them to sleep in the water without drowning.
They're born with a reflex that allows them to push themselves up to the surface to breathe and then sink back down without needing to wake up — if you're jealous, you're not alone.
They Even Breast Feed Underwater
As with many mammals, hippos can't process food at first. Again, to avoid predators, female hippos breastfeed their babies underwater.
The calf's ears and nostrils close off as they usually do when they are submerged, but they can still suckle without breathing by creating a very tight latch. How cool is that?
And Add Grass to Their Diets Soon After
After around three weeks of exclusively surviving on breast milk, baby hippos will start to eat grass to supplement their diet.
They continue to be breastfeed for another seven to eight months before weaning off completely.
They're Born With a Toothy Smile
Because they start eating grass and other vegetation within weeks of birth, hippo babies come into this world with a full set of teeth.
No teething pains for these young ones.
They're Night Owls
Like adult hippos, babies are most active at night when they don't have to deal with the sun's heat. Many predators are also inactive at this time, allowing the species to go about their business undisturbed.
As expected, most of their feeding times are also nocturnal.
They're Massive Even at Birth
It's easy to imagine that all babies are small and cute, but in the grand scheme of things, baby hippos are huge.
Newborns weigh around 100 pounds (and adults can weigh up to 9,921 pounds). For comparison, the average weight for human babies ranges between five and eight pounds at birth.
And They Grow Very Fast
Not content with weighing 100 pounds at birth, hippos usually grow 10 times their weight in a single year.
To do this, they spend their first year of life eating everything in sight, sometimes consuming 50 pounds of food a day!
They're Fast Despite Their Weight
Although large and heavy, adult and baby hippos are surprisingly fast. Babies can run over 4 miles per hour, while adults can go up to 19 miles per hour.
In short, you do not want to be chased by a hippo.
They Don't Need Sunscreen
One more piece of proof that hippos are cooler than humans: Their skin produces natural sunscreen.
While we have to deal with buying and using creams every day, these awesome animals simply make their own protection against the sun by secreting a liquid that blocks UV rays. It's also thought to help fight off infections.
Babies Can Recognize Their Mother's Voice
Although they don't speak with words, hippos tend to express themselves by snorting and grunting. But rather than being random sounds, each hippo has its unique voice.
This means a baby hippo can recognize its mother's noises even in a large group.
They Have Predators
Adult hippos are seldom seen as prey. Who'd want to go up against a 9,000-pound beast that can run 20 miles per hour and has a bite force of 1,800 pounds? When food is scarce, lions have been known to attack a single hippo in groups of five or more, but this is unusual.
The same can't be said for baby hippos. Crocodiles, lions and other predators of sub-Saharan Africa prey on calves, who are small enough to be attacked but big enough to represent a heavy, calorie-rich meal.
RELATED: Alligator vs. Crocodile: Facts That Set the Record Straight
You Can Probably Guess the Biggest Threat They Face
Crocodiles and lions are scary, but they're not the main cause of concern for baby — or adult — hippos. The biggest threat to this species is, you guessed it, humans.
Hippopotamuses only live in Africa, and their numbers are dwindling enough to have them be declared regionally extinct in Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania. Habitat loss due to overdevelopment and human-made pollution is the primary cause of this. Poaching is another problem, given the large demand for ivory, which can be found in their teeth.
It's rare for baby hippos to be poached since their teeth are smaller, but they do suffer from an encroaching lack of habitat caused by our activities.
Adults Are Fiercely Protective of Their Young
Because hippo babies are prey for a lot of other animals, adult hippos are extremely protective of them and often don't let them wander on their own.
As with bears, if you see a baby hippo, you should always assume its mother is nearby. And that she will get aggressive if she perceives you as a threat.
Baby Hippos Are Not Dangerous, but You Still Want to Avoid Them
Hippos are notoriously one of the most dangerous animals in the world, killing around 500 people per year. But can a baby hippo harm a human? In theory, their bite could hurt an adult, but it's uncommon for them to attack any animal when they're so young.
But now you know that being near a baby can cause adults to attack.
The moral of the story: Baby hippos are cute as heck, but should be seen only at a safe distance.