Hippo Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Do you know anything about the hippopotamus? In this lesson, we will explore what a hippopotamus is, how it lives and what it eats. You will also learn some cool facts about these animals, too!

What Is a Hippopotamus?

Imagine you are on safari in Africa. You come upon a lake and see what looks like two small eyes and tiny, round ears poking out above the water's surface. It doesn't look very big, so you decide to get closer. Slowly, it comes out of the water, and you see that those tiny eyes and ears are attached to a very large, plump animal with an enormous mouth! You've just met a hippopotamus, and you should definitely get out of its way!

A hippopotamus, also called a hippo, is a very large, aggressive African animal. It has a large head and mouth, grayish skin and short legs.

A hippopotamus coming out of the water.
Hippopotamus by the Water

An adult hippo can weigh between 3,000 to more than 9,000 pounds and can stand over 5 feet high at their shoulder. Though they look like a cuddly blob with legs, they are very aggressive and can kill a human. Even with those short, stubby legs, hippos can run about 30 miles per hour on land for a short time, so you might have a hard time outrunning one!

Their gray skin, which is mostly hairless, may look tough and leathery, but it dries out easily in the sun. So, hippos spend most of their day hanging out in the water to stay cool. They have another interesting way of protecting their skin when not in the water--their skin will ooze a red, slippery substance that looks like blood. This is called blood sweat. Although it sounds yucky, it's not really blood, and the hippo needs it to keep its skin wet and protected from sunburn. They have their own built-in sunscreen!

Where Do Hippos Live?

In the wild, hippos are found in eastern and southern Africa by lakes and rivers. They live in groups, called schools. Remember how the hippo stays in the water most of the day? It still needs to know what is happening around it, so its nose, eyes and ears are high up on its head, poking out of the water. Hippos can stay almost completely under the water and still breathe, see and hear!

When they do go underwater, their nose holes close so the water can't get in, like when you pinch your nose and go underwater. Hippos can even walk along the bottoms of lakes and rivers, holding their breath for up to 5 minutes!

Hippo walking underwater
Hippo Walking Underwater

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