Uganda Wildlife: Hippopotamus


The name Hippopotamus comes from the Greek words ‘hippos’ meaning horse and ‘potamus’ meaning river. Though the hippo spends most of its day in the water, it is more closely related to the pig. Hippos like to be close to shores during day but at night they venture inland to graze and return at sunrise. In areas undistributed by people, hippos lie on the shore in the morning sun.

Fact Sheet

Common name: Hippopotamus

Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibious

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Order: Mammalia

Genus: Hippopotamus

Species: Amphibious

Where to find the Hippo

They stay in dry savanna to dense rainforests with water sources. In Uganda you will easily find the Hippo in Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks.

What the Hippopotamus eats

They are herbivores. They are surprisingly agile and often traverse steep banks each night to graze on grass. They exit and enters water at the same spots and graze for 4-5 hrs, covering one or two miles, with extended forays up to 5 miles.


How to identify a Hippo

Hippopotamus is the third largest living land mammal weighing half (½) a ton or 500 kilograms.

A hippo’s foot has four webbed toes which splay out to distribute weight evenly and therefore adequately support it on land. The grayish body has very thick which is virtually harmless. The hippo has neither sweat nor sebaceous glands relying on water or mud to keep cool. Two hippos species are found in Africa. The large hippo found in East Africa and the much smaller species of hippos is the pygmy hippopotamus (choerospis liberiensis) found in West Africa.


Hippos have a flexible social system defined by hierarchy and by food and water conditions. Usually found in mixed groups of about 15 individuals held by a territorial bull. But in periods of drought large numbers are forced to congregate near limited pool of water. A single young is born either on land or in shallow water after a gestation period of 240 days.