Wednesday, March 23, 2016


"Glistening" hippo, 8"x8" scratchboard
"Hippopotamus" means "river horse." The fact that hippos spend most of their time in water lends credence to part of that name, but other than being quadrupedal herbivores, I fail to see the resemblance to horses. Hippos belong to the order Artiodactyla, or even-toed ungulates, which also includes deer, sheep, and bison. However, their closest living relatives are actually whales and dolphins.

Hippos actually have very little fat. Their rolls and wrinkles are formed by their very thick skin, which serves as a defense against predators. The skin produces a natural sunscreen, but still must be kept wet to avoid drying out. Hippos spend most of the day in the water, but emerge in the cool parts of the day to graze.

While hippos tend to graze alone, in the water they form loose groups. Females stay near other females and calves, young males stay with other young males, and the dominant bull stays nearby on his own. Battles for dominance use the hippos' long, sharp front teeth.


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