Guest Question – Can Hippo's Swim?

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Hippos are the second largest land mammals after elephants and can weigh several tons when fully grown. They spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in water and emerge in the evening to graze on the shore. So, it would seem logical that they are good swimmers.

What is Swimming?

It's difficult to guess what's going on underwater when these huge beasts are on the move. In video footage of zoo-kept hippos they do appear to be swimming but further research suggests this may not be the case.

It all depends on how you define swimming. Hippo's can swim in the sense that submarines and boats can 'swim', but not in the way that Michael Phelps or Chad le Clos do.

How do Hippo's Really Move Through the Water?

This can be a confusing comparison when one considers that hippos do not have an engine like boats and submarines. So how do they propel themselves through the water at speeds of up to 8 km per hour? This is an impressive speed when you consider that Phelps's record is 9.66 km per hour.

Like people, hippos enjoy floating on the water and can control their buoyancy with their breath and body position. When they need to get somewhere they simply walk along the bottom and resurface for air every 5 minutes or so. No swimming involved.

When there's a need for speed, hippos up the pace to a gallop. This causes a bouncing motion which propels their huge bodies upward for short bursts of time. The motion looks rather like a mix between underwater moon-walking and swimming. They can manage this incredible feat thanks to having just the right amount of bone density and buoyancy.

In this way, hippos can get where they need to go quickly and often unseen. This super-stealthy way of getting around makes hippos just as dangerous in the water as they are on land where they can barrel along at an astonishing 40 km per hour.

How to See Hippos in the Wild

The moral of the story, don't mess with hippos, they are one of Africa's most dangerous animals despite their clumsy appearance.

Fortunately, you're in good hands on your South African safari. The experienced game rangers that guide you on game drives during your stay at Thornybush Collection know how to stay on the right side of hippos.

Get in touch with us today and you could soon be admiring these amazing animals in the wild.


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Monday, 16 September 2019