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The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius Linnaeus 1758) – huge, fat, barrel shaped – certainly no beauty yet simultaneously dangerously disarming. The German name for the hippo is Nilpferd or Flussperd directly translated to mean “Nile horse” or “river horse”. The Afrikaans name “seekoei” means “sea cow”. It is difficult in either instance to see much of a similarity between a hippo, horse and cow.

Hippo are very gregarious animals associating together in groups called pods. Hippo weigh on average about 1500kg (3300 pounds), but can weigh as much as 2000kg (4400 pounds).The head is enormous with an extremely broad muzzle. Small eyes protrude on bony projecting orbits. This together with the slightly raised nostrils which can be closed and sealed when diving underwater enable the hippo to maintain a low profile in the water. The ears which seem outrageously small in comparison to the head are rapidly twirled when a hippo surfaces to shake off water. The skin of these huge animals, except for a few bristles on the muzzle and tail, is nearly naked and forms folds on the neck and shoulders. The colour is uniformly brownish grey, lighting to pinkish around the muzzle, eyes and throat. Sometimes the body is coloured reddish by the secretion of glands in the skin. This is referred to as “blood sweat”. Primarily grazers they will generally leave their watery habitat soon after sunset and return at first light.