Explore Baby Hippos

Baby Hippo in WaterHippos begin their lives underwater. After a gestation period of eight months, the mother hippo gives birth to usually one calf submerged in water, away from the pod. The calf must push to the surface to draw its first breath. The average calf weighs between 50 and 100 pounds and is four feet long. Rarely, the mother will have twins.

Mother hippos are very protective. They let their calves crawl up onto their backs when the water is too deep. Calves are raised in small nurseries from time to time, where the young hippos learn to playfight. Usually, though, mothers keep other hippos away from their calves.


Baby Hippo and MotherCalves begin to be weaned when they are six to eight months old. The process of weaning them is typically complete by the time they are a year old. Hippos are grazers. They mostly eat plants that grow on land and don’t graze underwater. Their diet consists of grass and short, shrubby plants. Here and there, they will also consume aquatic plants. Hippos are not made for eating meat and any accounts of their scavenging for carrion are likely caused by food scarcity and stress.

Hippos become adults around five to six years old, although they don’t stop growing in size until they are 25. Once fully grown, they can weigh more than three tons. They are about 11 feet long and stand 4.5 feet at the shoulder.


Baby Hippo Above WaterMothers and daughters stay together for life. They sleep and lounge next to each other and are pretty much inseparable. Males leave their mothers and sleep and lounge with other bachelors. Pods of hippos may have hundreds of individuals but a dominant bull (called a “beachmaster”) only controls about 10 cows. The bachelors are tolerated nearby to these cows so long as they act submissively towards the beachmaster.

Studies of hippos’ reproductive cycles have shown that most become pregnant at the end of the summer’s wet season and give birth at the beginning of the winter’s wet season. A female hippo will not be able to become pregnant again for almost a year after giving birth. Unlike many smaller animals, hippos opt to have one (occasionally two) calves every couple of years rather than several babies several times a year.

Usually in the wild, hippos live to be 50 to 60 years old. The oldest recorded age for a hippo was 65. Bertha lived in the Manila Zoo in the Philippines and had lived there since 1959. She only passed away in 2017.


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