Exploring the Habitats of Hippos: Where Do These Massive Mammals Live?

Ever found yourself pondering where hippos make their home? Or perhaps, where elephants roam? Depending on the kind of hippopotamus – whether it’s the large/common variety or the petite pygmy, their habitats vary. These sizable creatures are primarily found throughout Africa, including areas in Angola, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. 

Common hippos are scattered across land and water, both in grasslands and in estuaries, and the smaller pygmy hippos are confined to the west. But there’s so much more to a hippo’s living habits than this. With ears attuned to the natural rhythm of their surroundings, let’s dive in and explore their world!

Explore the Habitats: Where Do Common Hippos Live?

Portrait of a Hippopotamus in water in Saadani National Park
Muhammad Mahdi Karim, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Large or common hippos have a fondness for aquatic environments, much like elephants who inhabit wetlands and deltas. They usually settle next to lakes, rivers, ponds, or lagoons in grassy landscapes, or sometimes in marshy and floodplain areas, with plentiful food resources. Their diet is primarily grass, with the average hippo chowing down over one hundred pounds a day.

Interestingly, hippos can regulate their body temperature in unique ways. Since they don’t sweat, they rely on water and mud to stay cool and protect their skin from sun damage. You’ll often spot these titanic mammals lounging in water bodies or slathered in mud during the day. Despite their colossal size, hippos, like the nocturnal elephants of Botswana, venture out to eat when the sun dips below the horizon.

These magnificent creatures can be found in rivers and lakes throughout sub-Saharan Africa in a variety of waterholes, seeking refuge in the water during the heat of the day. Hippos are well adapted to their aquatic lifestyle, with webbed feet and the ability to hold their breath for long periods.

They can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily in rivers, lakes, marshes, and swamps, where they spend most of their day submerged in water to stay cool and protect their sensitive skin from the sun.

Hippos: Nocturnal Foragers

Group of Hippopotamuses in water

While hippos, like the elephants of Angola, may seem lazy during the day, they’re quite active at night. They embark on their food hunts as dusk falls, venturing from their aquatic resting spots to lush greens. The cooler temperatures make night-time the perfect grazing period for these heavyweight animals.

Hippos primarily inhabit sub-Saharan Africa, where they occupy a variety of areas in countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia. They reside near water sources such as rivers, lakes, and swamps. Their vast habitats extend to the lagoons and deltas of Botswana and Zimbabwe too, where they find ample water for their daily activities.

The Aquatic Life: Understanding Hippo Habits

A pod at the Saadani National Park with Hippo family
Muhammad Mahdi Karim, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Often nicknamed ‘river horses,’ hippos spend a big chunk of their lives in water bodies, similar to elephants which also take refuge in marshes. These enormous beasts can stay submerged for up to twelve minutes, although a single dive usually lasts around five minutes.

Generally, hippos are pretty laid back, unless you’re dealing with a mother and her calf. Protective mama hippos, much like their elephant counterparts, with their keen eyes perpetually on their young, can get highly combative if they sense a threat.

Hippo Moms: Protectors of the Pack

So, the answer to “where do hippos live” depends, as we’ve seen, on their variety and preference for water-side habitats. From sprawling savannahs to tranquil deltas and estuaries, these awe-inspiring mammals have a fascinating relationship with their environment, not unlike the elephants of Zimbabwe that inhabit similar terrain.

Tiny Giants: Where Do Pygmy Hippos Live?

Pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis) in Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland.
Bardrock, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Reside exclusively on the western side of Africa.
  • Just like common hippos, they prefer water-side habitats.
  • The only major difference is their smaller size.
  • The pygmy hippo is, unfortunately, edging towards extinction.

Related: Elephant Task Force

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