The hippopotamus might look docile or even dumb to some people, but in reality the hippo is a ruthless killer, a creature once feared by the ancient Egyptians. These three-ton giants communicate like dolphins, scare off crocodiles and have a bite stronger than a bull shark.
Research in 1987 revealed that hippos make a cacophony of clicking sounds to communicate with one another when submerged. For many years, experts believed hippos were strict herbivores. But then in 1995, biologist Joseph Dudley witnessed a a school of hippos kill an impala and one individual chew on its leg, suggesting that hippos are not herbivores but carnivores. Some experts believe that hippos even have cannibalistic tendencies. But because hippos spend up to 80% of their lives in water, much of their daily activities, feeding habits and mating rituals still remain a mystery.
In Africa, it’s believed that the hippo is responsible for killing more humans than any other animal. In the continent’s fourth largest river – the Zambezi – hippos are known for chasing canoes from their territory and fiercely guarding their young. Armed with massive tusks and teeth made of the hardest ivory in the world, hippos are very capable and terrifying killers. These creatures are responsible for killing hundreds of people each year – according to one account, about 300 fisherman and their families have moved over 2 kilometers away from the Zambezi to distance themselves from violent ‘problem’ hippos.
Hear true stories about hippo attacks and learn more about this fascinating species on Hippos: The Dark Side, airing Friday, December 3rd at 8 PM et/pt on Nat Geo Wild!