Hippos IFC_01 photoThis month’s Zoobooks animal is one that people sometimes don’t understand: the hippopotamus. Even its name reveals a misconception: the ancient Greeks called it “hippopotamos,” which means “river horse.” You probably know that the hippo’s not a horse, but did you know that there are two varieties of this amazing animal? The common hippopotamus might be the one you think of first—tipping scales at up to 7,000 pounds, it’s the third-largest land animal, after elephants and white rhinos. But there’s also the rarer pygmy hippo. This “little” hippo still weighs 400-600 pounds, and few people have seen it.
Hippos’ large sizes mean that they can typically look after themselves—they are surprisingly fast, and their only natural predators are lions and leopards that prey on young hippos. In fact, many people consider hippos the most dangerous animals in Africa. However, humans pose a bigger danger to hippos that they do to us. Poaching and habitat destruction in the 19th and 20th centuries killed many hippos, but scientists today are working to better understand these amazing animals and help preserve them for years to come.