Hippopotamuses are not exactly the cutest critters on the planet, but we are very attached to them anyway. They aren't exactly the best tempered creatures either, but we still love them. Even so, most of us don't really know very much about them beyond their hefty weight issues and their huge gaping jaws. Here are a few not-so-tasty tidbits about them that you probably didn't know.

Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus

Image via Wikimedia

First of all the name hippopotamus is from ancient Greek for "river horse." While that part is generally known, the hippo is not related at all to horses but is more closely related to cetaceans -- whales, dolphins, porpoises, and so on. Wow! Didn't see that one coming. Up until 1909 it was generally believed that hippos were related to pigs.

Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus

Image via Wikimedia

Hippos are susceptible to sunburn just like humans, but unlike humans hippos come equipped with their own sunscreen. Hippo sweat is amazing stuff. It starts out clear, then turns red, and finally brown. It is a powerful sunscreen that protects the hippo hide and it strongest when it is red. This red color also has strong antibacterial properties that help hippos heal from their many battle injuries.

Beware of Hippopotamus
Beware of Hippopotamus

Image via Wikimedia

There is a thing known as the Hippo Butt Leech. Like other leeches it likes to suck blood. In the case of this one it likes hippo blood. However, hippos are thick-skinned enough that they are largely impervious to such things so these leeches have to be more creative. These little critters are really a pain in the, well, butt, to the hippopotamus. They feed inside a hippos rectum. The leeches have two suckers -- one at each end -- to help really have a grip. They need it since hippo bowel movements are very, um. moving. The leech will feed until it is up to 10 times its weight and then let go and just drop out.

Hippo Butt Leech
Hippo Butt Leech

Image via Wired

Speaking of hippo "movements," when a hippo poops it vigorously wags its tail at the same time to fling the dung all over the place. This is presumed to be the way that the hippo marks its territory.  Due to its diet of vegetation the hippo is also rather flatulent. Check out the video below for a complete demonstration.

Hippos are also a favorite in popular culture. From the music of The Hippopotamus Polka and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas to the Hanna Barbera cartoon character Peter Potamus we have embraced the hippo. My personal favorite is the hippo ballerina in the Disney film Fantasia (one of my favorite movies of all time). That is probably because of the personal resemblance to that ballerina coupled with years of ballet lessons as a kid. Oooo, fat jokes.

Ballerina Hippo from Disney's Fantasia
Ballerina Hippo from Disney's Fantasia

Image via The Disney Wiki

You can write your own fat joke here when I tell you that a group of hippos is called a bloat. Okay, they can also be called a pod, a herd, or a dale, but let's face it, bloat is the funniest.

Sources: BBC, Wired, Wikipedia

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