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Discover the Quirky World of Hippos: Top 17 Fun Facts You Never Knew

illustration of hippos
Dive into the fascinating world of hippos, as we uncover quirky tidbits and delightful trivia that will have you hippo-tized!

1. Underwater Dance Masters

Hippos might be the ultimate underwater dancers, waltzing with grace along the riverbeds, but they've got a secret most dancers can't boast: they're proficient in holding their breath for up to five minutes! Although surprisingly, these heavyweights aren't known for their swimming skills, but rather for walking, galloping, and prancing underwater thanks to their dense bones that keep them submerged. Just don't expect them to magically breathe underwater like Aquaman – they do need that fresh air every once in a while.
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2. Tooth Fairy's Nightmare

While the tooth fairy might go bankrupt dealing with these behemoths, it's not quite as exaggerated as legends claimed: Hippos actually have up to 36 teeth, with their incisors and canines reaching a staggering 1.6 feet in length, and their molars and premolars designed perfectly for grinding and crushing, bless them with a jaw-dropping bite force of 1800 psi—stronger than a lion or polar bear!
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3. Hippo Water Aerobics

Hippo water aerobics, anyone? These chubby water-dwelling ballerinas aren't just taking leisurely strolls at the bottom of the river - they're submerging themselves in a covert performance of "Swan Lake": Hippos can expertly hold their breath for an astounding six minutes, waltzing along the riverbed to evade predators and travel gracefully through their aquatic kingdom.
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4. Hefty Track Stars

You might think of hippos as the couch potatoes of the animal world, but it turns out they're actually closeted track stars: These hefty mammals can sprint at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour (29 kmph) when the situation calls for it, making them far faster than their tranquil river-dwelling lifestyles might suggest.
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Fertilizer Hippos

5. Fertilizer Hippos

What do hippos and fertilizer have in common? They both contribute to a blooming ecosystem! Sure, it may sound like a stinky subject, but these big guys are the unsung heroes in their watery world: Hippos can spend up to 16 hours daily submerged in water, and their dung is a vital nutrient source for river fish and aquatic insects in Africa, helping to maintain a healthy connection between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
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6. Bird Entourage

When hippos hit the red carpet, they bring an entourage that rivals A-list celebs: birds like the Common Sandpiper and Oxpeckers aren't just perched on their backs for a photo op! The serious reveal: These birds actually groom hippos by feasting on insects and parasites found on their hosts' backs, which also serves as an essential food source due to the aggression between hippos leading to open wounds. Despite their own tiffs, hippos play nice with their feathered stylists.
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7. Escobar's Lost Hippos

In a strange twist of fate, Narcos has nothing on The Lion King when it comes to Colombia's wildest cast of characters: Pablo Escobar's private zoo once housed four illegal African hippos that, upon his demise, escaped and multiplied to a staggering population of over 140, wreaking havoc on the nation's ecosystem and even endangering unfortunate human encounters.
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8. Riverdance Beasts

Hippos may look like an 8000-pound version of Riverdance, but their water waltzing is no laughing matter: With their ability to control buoyancy and bone density, hippos can "dance" underwater while keeping their feet on the ground, remain submerged for up to 30 minutes, and perform porpoise-like leaps in deeper waters.
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9. Dangerous Jaws

If you ever play Hungry Hungry Hippos and think it's just fun and games, let us introduce you to the aquatic world's criminal mastermind: Hippos are responsible for causing deep wound infections, amputations, and permanent disabilities due to their aggression and powerful jaws. In fact, these cuddle-hungry cuties are a major threat to humans in close proximity to their natural habitats. Don't say we didn't warn you!
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Fiona the Photo-bomber

10. Fiona the Photo-bomber

When life handed Fiona the famous hippo a lighter birthweight, she made lemonade and photo-bombed engagement photos: Newborn hippos usually weigh around 100 pounds, but Fiona tipped the scales at just 29 pounds due to her premature arrival, only to grow into a healthy, cake-loving celebrity at the Cincinnati Zoo.
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11. Underwater Snooze Masters

Move over mermaids, the original underwater snooze masters have arrived: Hippos are known to sleep for up to 6 hours while floating in water, thanks to a specialized reflex that lets them surface for air and submerge again without even waking up.
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12. Wheeze Honk Parties

If hippos made party invitations, they'd likely say "You had me at 'Wheeze Honk'": These chatty behemoths can not only distinguish friends from foes based on their unique wheeze honks, but also eavesdrop on conversations up to half a mile away! Thanks to a vocal repertoire filled with grunts, bellows, and squeals, hippos can effectively announce their presence and determine if the honks are from their pod or a stranger trying to crash the party.
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13. Protective Hippo Sweat

In a world where vampires avoid the sun and werewolves howl at the moon, hippos have found a unique way to keep their skin gore-geously glowing: Their "sweat" is not blood but rather an orange substance, which acts as a natural antimicrobial and sunscreen, helping them maintain their river-horse chic all day long.
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14. Ooze Craze Originators

Who knew that hippos were the original creators of the red ooze craze long before Nickelodeon came along? These massive marshmallows of the animal kingdom sure know how to rock a cool (and functional) summer look: hippos produce a special kind of sweat that acts like a natural sunscreen and antiseptic, as well as an insect repellent. This marvelous "hippo sweat" efficiently scatters and absorbs sunlight to protect their precious hides from sunburn while keeping pesky bugs and infections at bay.
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Hippolympic Sprinters

15. Hippolympic Sprinters

Hippolympics, anyone? With their bulky bodies and seemingly slow moves, you wouldn't think hippos have the potential to outrun humans in a race for survival: Alas, the truth is jarring, as these chubby champions can dash at impressive speeds of up to 30 kilometers per hour when in danger or asserting their domineering presence, complete with grunts, jaw-gaping displays, and feces-flinging fanfares.
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16. Hippo-sensory Superpowers

Who needs x-ray vision when you have hippo-sensory superpowers? It's a bird! It's a plane! Nope, just a hippo feeling around underwater: These large mammal marvels possess an incredible sense of touch that allows them to navigate through the depths and locate food sources or potential threats without even needing to see them directly.
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17. Hippo Gossip Masters

Hold on to your wheeze honks, because hippos are about to put your gossip skills to shame: These chatty river horses can distinguish friends, acquaintances, and strangers through various vocalizations and respond accordingly – with their spectacular sounds being heard for over half a mile!
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