Baby Hippo: 5 Calf Pictures & 5 Facts

Written by Sadie Dunlap
Updated: October 8, 2022
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Baby hippos are among the largest baby mammals in the world. They’re undoubtedly some of the most adorable semiaquatic animalscan swim, but they can be dangerous, too. Read on to find out five awesome hippo calf facts and to see some seriously adorable pictures!

#1: A Baby Hippo and Baby Tortoise Became Best Friends!


Baby hippos love to eat grass!


If we told you that an orphaned baby hippo and a 130-year-old tortoise became best friends, you’d probably think we were crazy, right? Well, it’s true! On an animal sanctuary in Kenya, a hippo named Owen was separated from his family after a tsunami ravaged his home.

The owner of Lafarge Ecosystems heard about the baby hippo and immediately went to collect the animal. When she brought him back to safety on her sanctuary, he immediately ran to a 130-year-old tortoise named Mzee. Surprisingly, the tortoise ended up exchanging signs of affection with Owen.

Mzee and Owen shared their days walking together, going to the pond, and patrolling the sanctuary. This unlikely friendship goes to show just how heartwarming nature can be! 

#2: Baby Hippos Weigh About 100 Pounds


Baby hippos are born weighing fifty to 100 pounds!


Since hippos are the third-largest land mammal, behind only elephants and rhinos, you can probably imagine that they have massive babies. In fact, the average baby hippo is born weighing around 100 pounds! 

Hippo calves will eventually grow to weigh 3,000 pounds or more as fully-grown adults. They primarily depend on their mother’s milk, which is rich in nutrients and fat, to help them gain weight. Since hippos spend much of their time in water, calves must nurse underwater. They close their eyes and nose when feeding to avoid sucking in water while they eat.

Once they are weaned, they begin to eat grass as their primary source of food.

What Do Hippos Eat
The hippopotamus consumes a mostly herbivorous diet in the wild, with grass, leaves, fruit, and aquatic plants making up most of their diet.

This helps get them acclimated to chewing and prepares their digestive system to break down solid food. They can eat up to fifty pounds of grass a night as they are growing. Once they are adults, their food interests branch out more, but grass remains a staple in their diet for their entire lives.

#3: Baby Hippos Can’t Swim


Hippo calves use their legs to push up from the floor of a body of water since they cannot swim.

©Daniela Schroeder/

It may come as a surprise to you that neither baby hippos nor their parents can swim. You might be wondering how then, can they spend so much time in the water? The answer is simple: they use their legs to catapult themselves from the bottom of the water. 

The best way to describe how hippos can live in the water is that they float around. However, since they are so heavy, they can’t really float. When it appears that they are floating on the water’s surface, the reality is that they are standing in a shallow area of the water. This gives the impression of floating but is misleading. 

Hippos are also unable to breathe underwater. Babies can hold their breath under the surface for up to a minute. As they grow to adulthood, that amount of time increases to around five minutes.

#4: Baby Hippo Twins are Extremely Rare


Mother hippos give birth to single babies once every approximately 2 years.


While a hippo pregnancy can result in twins, it is extremely rare. Mother hippos give birth to a single baby about once every two years. It is so unheard of that a female hippo will have multiple babies at once that only 15 instances have been recorded in the last 100 years. 

#5: The First Hippo Ultrasound was Captured in 2017


The first ever hippo ultrasound occurred in 2017 at the Cincinnati Zoo.

©Stu Porter/

Hippos are notoriously territorial animals. When unsuspecting people roam into hippos’ territories, the animals are known to become highly aggressive. They are dangerous to humans because their ivory teeth are incredibly sharp. Their bite force has also been measured at some 1,800 pounds of force.

These facts make it evident that it would be nearly impossible to perform an ultrasound on pregnant female hippos. One female hippo at Cincinnati Zoo, though, allowed zookeepers to take an ultrasound of her baby in 2017. Zookeepers conditioned the animal with her favorite foods to convince her to allow them to perform the procedure.

The hippo was also well-trained at her last zoo and was known for her easy-going personality. These circumstances made the zookeeper’s job much more manageable. The result was the first ultrasound on a hippo pregnancy in history!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © tantrik71/

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do baby hippos eat?

Baby hippos are mammals, which means they primarily survive on their mother’s milk for the first several months of life. Eventually, they begin eating grass and venture to small birds and other animals. However, they always eat grass as a primary source of food.

What are baby hippos called?

Baby hippos are called calves.

How big are baby hippos?

Calves are born weighing around 50 to 100 pounds and measure approximately 2 feet long.

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