National Hippo Day is celebrated on February 15 every year. Hippos love water, which is why the Greeks named them river horses. The hippopotamus or hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal after elephants and rhinos. These mammals can be identified with their mouths wide open to reveal large canine tusks, almost hairless bodies, and large sizes with an average weight of 1,500 kg. This hippopotamus lives near rivers, lakes, mangrove swamps, and they have no terrestrial territory. They appear at dusk to feed on grasses. Hippos are aggressive, unpredictable and have attacked humans before. They are poached for their meat and ivory white fangs.
History of National Hippo Day
Hippopotamuses, known as hippos, are celebrated today. Their name is derived from Ancient Greek and means "water horse" or "river horse." However, their closest relatives are actually whales, dolphins, porpoises, and pigs. They are the third largest land mammal, surpassed only by elephants and white rhinos. On average, females weigh 3,000 pounds and males weigh between 3,500 and 9,920 pounds. They range in length from 10.8 to 16.5 feet and are about 5.2 feet tall at shoulder height.
Hippos live in near-Saharan Africa, near lakes, rivers and mangrove swamps. They take around 16 hours a day in the water. Since they cannot swim or float, they spend most of their time in shallower water than at the coast. When in deeper water, they need to push off the bottom to push themselves up to stay above the waterline. However, they can stay underwater for three to five minutes. They can even sleep underwater, and come back on their own without having to wake up. No matter where they are in the water, in order to move without touching the bottom, they need to push other objects away and glide. At dusk, they come out of the water and eat grass. Sometimes they also eat fruit. Hippos may eat 80 to 150 pounds of grass per night.
Water is both a place where hippos breed and give birth. They can give birth every two years, weighing between 50 and 100 pounds at birth. They reach full maturity between the ages of 5 and 7, and their lifespan is about 36 years. Hippos often move in groups of 10 to 30, and may even up to 200. They can run at speeds of almost 20 miles per hour. They also secrete a red mucus called "blood sweat" to protect them from the sun.
Hippos are one of the most ferocious animals in the world. They sometimes attack humans and are considered by some to be the deadliest large land animal. About 500 people per year are killed in Africa. However, humans are also a threat to them. They are poached for their meat and their fangs are made of ivory. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says they are vulnerable, but not endangered. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, their populations were declining due to habitat loss and poaching. Their numbers have now reached the stability because of increased law enforcement. There are between 125,000 and 148,000 wild hippos in the wild.
Some facts about hippos that you may unknown?
The word hippopotamus is loosely translated as "river horse" in Ancient Greek. It's certainly a fitting name, as these creatures spend most of their lives in the water, leaving only at dusk to forage. They can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes, which means they can even give birth and sleep underwater. In fact, just like how breathing and blinking are automatic for us humans, hippos subconsciously know when to look for oxygen, so they breathe often even when they're fast asleep! Although these mammals spend a considerable amount of time in the water, you might be surprised to learn that they actually can't swim! Instead, they simply walk or run along the riverbed, propelling themselves above the water for air.
One of the main reasons hippos spend so much time underwater is to keep their skin from drying out and cracking in the heat. This is also why they love to play in the mud, as mucus helps them stay cool! But hippos even go a step further to protect themselves from the sun's rays, secreting an acidic substance that acts as a natural sunscreen. This nifty protection mechanism, which turns red and then brown after exposure to air, not only blocks UV rays, but also prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.
Hippos are famous for their massive size, with only elephants and rhinos ahead of them as the largest land mammals. An adult male can reach a whopping 2,000kg in weight and still be able to run at almost 20mph! This combined with their aggressive nature and large fangs make hippos very dangerous animals. There are many cases of hippos attacking boats, with some people being injured or very unfortunately losing their lives. Therefore, extreme care should be taken when encountering them in the wild.
How to celebrate National Hippo Day
Hippos have long been honored in Africa, revered by Zulu warriors for their bravery, often included in African folk tales and images of the ancient Egyptian goddess Taweret. You can help continue this age-old tradition by observing Hippo Day!
Perhaps the best way to celebrate Hippo Day is to go see a few for yourself. Head to your nearest zoo or safari park and see the hippopotamus exhibit. They will often have a lot of fascinating information on display and are a great way to get up close and personal with hippos and contribute to conservation efforts. Just be warned that their cases can get quite smelly, so it might be worth bringing a spare latch!
If you are a serious animal lover and can travel, why not go hunting? There are many companies and experienced guides that offer safaris and tours, allowing you to see a wide variety of wildlife that inhabit the grasslands, savannas and swamps of Africa, including hippos!
Even if you can't see hippos with your own eyes, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these massive animals. See some wildlife photos and paintings at a local gallery or scour the internet for photos, documentaries and video clips.
If you have kids (or even if you're fully grown!), why not play a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos? This popular game has been around since the 70s and involves each player getting their hippo to swallow as many marbles from the pond as possible. Give it a try and see how you stack up against family and friends! There is also a wide range of movies and songs featuring hippos. Disney's Fantasia features a hippo dancing ballet, while the film Madagascar shows the hippo Gloria and her three friends being transported from Central Park Zoo to the iconic country. Gayla Peevey's "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" was a huge hit in the 1950s, and Flanders and Swann wrote several hippo-themed tunes including "Hippo Encore," which featured the famous lines, “Mud, mud, glorious mud! “So many options for a movie night or a solo!
And if you want to help ensure that hippos have plenty of hope, you can also donate to a charity that works to protect these creatures.
ObservedNational Hippo Day has been observed annually on February 15th.
Saturday, February 15th, 2020
Monday, February 15th, 2021
Tuesday, February 15th, 2022
Wednesday, February 15th, 2023
Thursday, February 15th, 2024