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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Hippopotamidae
Genera: Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus amphibius
Pygmy Hippopotamus
Choeropsis liberiensis

The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is a large, plant-eating African mammal. Hippopotamuses (hippopotami is also accepted as a plural form by the OED), also called hippos, are gregarious, living in groups of up to 20 animals. They spend most of their days up to their nostrils in the waters of tropical rivers, as they are extremely susceptible to sunburn. They can close their nostrils and remain completely submerged for more than ten minutes. They are buoyant and very skilled and graceful in water. They feed on land mostly at night, consuming as much as 50 kg (approximately 100 pounds) of vegetation a day.

Despite the popular image of the animal being easygoing and peaceful, the hippopotamus is actually one of the most dangerous African animals, said to account for more deaths than any other. Its canine teeth[?] are 0.5 meter (20 inches) long and it uses its head as a battering ram. The animals stand 1.5 m (5 feet) at the shoulders and weigh between 2700 and 4500 kilograms (roughly 6000 to 10000 pounds). They are approximately the same size as the rhinoceros; one or the other is the second-largest land animal.

A second species, the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) with a shoulder height of 75 cm (30 inches) and 180 kilograms (400 pounds) is solitary and considerably less aquatic.

The word hippopotamus comes, by way of Latin, from the ancient Greek ιππος ποταμος (hippos potamos), which means river horse.

Synonyms and common names

  • hippo


  • Order Artiodactyla (http://users.tamuk.edu/kfjab02/Biology/Mammalogy/systematics/A7artiodactyla.htm)
    as of 2002-07-10


  • H. amphibius

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