Hippopotamuses are polygamous, meaning they mate with more than one partner. Hippos may choose to mate with a different partner every time they mate. Female hippos reach sexual maturity at approximately 3 years of age but do not usually mate until they are 7 to 8 years of age. Females usually only mate every 2 to 3 years. Male hippos reach sexual maturity at approximately 5 years of age but usually do not get the chance to mate until they are much older and become more dominant. Dominant males chase less dominant males away from the females during breeding season. Predominately, only the dominant males get the opportunity to mate.
The breeding season for hippos is when the season is at the driest. Breeding during the dry season times the birth so that the that the baby hippos will be born during the rainy season when there is a lot of grass to forage and eat. This is important to the survival of the babies because the mothers will not have to move areas to obtain enough food to survive while the baby is still too young to travel.
Hippos mate in the water. The male hippo mounts the female hippo from behind. The buoyancy of the water helps the female hippo to not get injured from the male hippo's weight during the mating process. The male hippo can weigh twice as much as the female hippo, and with his short legs in comparison to his body, he is not able to hold his weight off of the female. The buoyancy of the water serves the function of minimizing his weight.
Pregnancy and Childbirth
A full term pregnancy for a female hippo is 8 months long. Hippos give birth to one baby during each pregnancy. Shortly before the birth of the baby, the female hippo will separate herself from the rest of the hippos. She may deliver the baby in or out of the water. The mother hippo will stay with her new baby for approximately 3 to 4 weeks before they both return to the group. The mother and child alone time will allow the two a chance to bond. After the two return to the group, all of the females will help participate in raising the baby. Although the mother does most of the work carrying for her young, all of the females in the group help to protect all of the babies from danger.
- Photo Credit Credit: Bert Glibbery - Copyright: morguefile.com/beglib
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