Hippos are known for their massive size, intimidating presence, and fierce territorial nature. Found in the rivers and lakes of sub-Saharan Africa, these semi-aquatic creatures are one of Africa’s big five animals and the most dangerous among Africa’s wildlife.
But amidst all the speculation about their formidable jaws and powerful bodies, one question has often been overlooked: Do hippos have tails?
The answer to this seemingly trivial question holds surprising insights into these fascinating creatures’ anatomy and evolutionary history. Join us as we delve into the journey of unraveling mysteries surrounding their tails.
Do Hippos Have Tails?
Hippos have small tails with a small tuft hanging at the end of it. They are not curly, flat in shape, and are almost hairless. They are the same color as the hippo’s body. Hippos’ tails can grow up to 22 inches, and they spin them like a propeller while they defecate to spread their feces and mark their territory.
Hippopotamuses, with their pig-like body and huge mouths that can open up to 180 degrees, may look silly, but behind their giant bodies, there is a funny-looking tail, too (lol). However, it is a very useful organ (unlike the brains of some activists); it helps to sprinkle their feces around their territories.
As hippos are vertebrates, they are born with a small bone known as a coccyx at the bottom of their spine. This bone will later develop into a full-functioning tail.
Note: In some animals, and even in humans, this bone doesn’t grow into a tail with further body development.
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What Does A Hippo Use Its Tail For?
Hippos are interesting creatures with some unique habits. Although most animals use their tails to balance their bodies and communicate with their buddies, hippos use their tails primarily for defecation.
Hippos spin their tails like propellers while pooping or peeing (the pee from the backside) to spread it around the surroundings. It is able to spread the waste over a radius of 10 meters.
Hippos are territorial animals, and they mark their area by defecating and urinating in certain places. It will let other species of animals or other hippos know that a hippo already claims the area, and thus, it serves as a warning to intruders.
Generally, the prime male of the group of hippos does this fanning activity to show its dominance over other male hippos and to let others know who is in charge. If anyone violates these territorial codes of conduct, they will have to face the wrath of the prime bull.
Hippos become very agile and aggressive when they feel that there is a threat to their territory. They don’t even hesitate to go to fight with a lion or a Nile crocodile in this matter.
Are Hippos Dirty Or Clean?
Definitely, hippos are not the cleanest animals. While male hippos use their poop to mark their territory, female hippos use it to show their affection by defecating near the head of their desired male.
Also, baby hippos have to eat the feces of their mother or other hippos in the herd to obtain the gut bacteria necessary for digestion. All in all, poop plays a major role in the existence of a hippo. But it also has some drawbacks, not for the hippos but for the environment.
Hippos are known to poop in the water bodies making it deadly for fish and water bodies because often the feces sink to the bottom of the water and decompose there. The bacteria that decompose the waste consume oxygen from the water, and as a result, the water will be deoxygenated, making it inhabitable for aquatic life.
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Some Interesting Facts About Hippos’ Tails:
- When a young bull wants to take over the place, it will also sprinkle its urine using its tail in the same place where the other bull has sprayed to show his defiance. It will trigger the prime bull as it’s a direct attack on its ego.
In most cases, this act is followed by a blood battle in which the enthusiastic male bull is defeated by the sigma bull and is left with no choice but to flee from there.
- Over the years, the tails of a hippopotamus have not only spun the body waste but also spun many tales that are spread over a radius of hundreds of miles.
The Bushmen (some indigenous people living in Southern Africa for several centuries) have many stories about these tails. Some of them indicate that God didn’t want hippopotami to live in water as he thought that they would eat all the fish in the water for their size.
But the hippo pleaded and promised God that it would only eat grass. So, God agreed to reconsider his decision but with one condition. The condition is that he will give a small tail, and the beast has to propel it whenever it poops, so God would know that there are no fish bones in the dung.
Hippos do have tails, but they are much smaller in size for their gigantic bodies. They flaunt them by rotating them in the air and also use them to mark their territory by sprinkling their urine and poop.
So, we can say that hippos use their tails more for communication and marking territory rather than for any significant locomotion.
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