Wildlife TV

Learn interesting and funny plant and animal facts with videos and photos

How do Hippopotamus mate?

on July 7, 2013

Last time in this series on mating techniques, we learned how porcupines can overcome some physical obstacles in order to achieve the act of mating and thus producing offspring. Porcupines of course are covered in sharp quills which makes copulation difficult, in this article we will look at another animal that might be considered to have some difficulty dealing with the physical logistics of mating.


When it comes to the hippo (Hippopotamus amphibious), similarly to the porcupine, the physical act of copulation seems to be impractical; they appear to be unwieldy, gigantic creatures so how does the male manage to clamber on top of the female in order to copulate?

Hippos are aquatic mammals and spend the vast majority of their time in the water; they are quite closely related to whales and dolphins but have not entirely committed to fully aquatic lifestyle, still making use of legs when they come out of the water at night to graze and mark territory. But aside from the few hours each night in which hippos get out and about, all of the rest of their activity takes place in the river, lake, dam or wherever they live, and hippo mating behaviour, as an activity, is no exception.

So how do hippos mate? Well, when underwater, hippos are quite buoyant which is helpful because, surprisingly, they can’t even swim! But being able to float helps the male get on top of the female efficiently without the need for any gymnastics or threats to her safety. However, mating is not by any means a sweet and loving process for hippos; males can be as much as double the weight of females and frequently end up holding their partners underwater, during the act the females often struggle to get free to reach the surface to take a breath. Males in general are also quite aggressive and will fight with deadly force to prevent other males from having access to the females they have acquired in their social group.

A gargantuan male hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) mounts a smaller female, using his buoyancy in the water to assist him.

A huge male hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) mounts a smaller female, using his buoyancy in the water to assist him.
The Red-Billed Oxpeckers (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) on his back don’t seem to feel like giving the couple any privacy!
Photo Credit.

If mating has been successful then a baby hippo will be born about 8 months later and, as you might have guessed, the birthing takes place underwater, so the calf, immediately from birth, will have to swim to the surface before it can even take its first breath.. So, as you can see, right from the start of their lives, they are inexorably linked to the water, it protects them and allows them to reproduce despite their physical ‘limitations’.

I hope you enjoyed learning how hippopotamus mate.

Do you would also like to learn how porcupines mate?

Check out our “Series” page for the list of “Mating Techniques“.



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