The common hippopotamus name means 'river horse' and the hippo spends most of its time in water.

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Breeding

When the female hippo is ready to breed she goes out to choose a mate and he must behave in a respectful manner as she enters his refuge.

The baby is born after a gestation period of 210 - 255 days. It is 1m long, 0.5m at the shoulder and weighs 27kg. The birth may take place in the water but normally it is on land, the mother preparing a bed of trampled reeds. 5 minutes after its birth, the baby can walk, run or swim. The mother soon takes her baby for walks on land, not along the usual paths taken when going to the feeding grounds, but all over the place. She teaches it to walk level with her neck, so she can keep an eye on it, and it must stop when she stops. In water the baby must swim level with her shoulder so that she can quickly protect it with her body from any aggressive males. Later, when going to the feeding pastures, she teaches it to walk at heel.

A mother hippo is very strict with her baby and if it is disobedient she punishes it by lashing it with her head, often rolling it over and over. She may even slash it with her tusks. When the baby cowers in submission, its mother stops punishing it and begins to lick and caress it.

If a female leaves the creche for any reason she places her baby in charge of another female who may already be supervising several others. The young hippos play with others of similar age, the females together playing a form of hide-and-seek or rolling over in the water with stiff legs. Young males play similar games but also indulge in mock fights.

Read More: Hippo Habits

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