What is Hippo Honking?

What is Hippo honking?

The Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) is a large African even-toed ungulate (hoofed) mammal.

The Common Hippo lives half in the water and half out – this is called semi-aquatic. It lives in a group of about 30 individuals, which is called a pod, herd, or bloat.

The Common Hippo makes loud vocal noises, such as grunts, honks, bellows, and squeals. 

Dr. Nicolas Mathevon, an animal behaviour professor at the University of Lyon in France, and his research colleagues, studied hippo noises. The researchers found that hippos can distinguish friends from strangers because they make different noises when they meet different groups. The researchers recorded the sound of seven groups of hippos in a reserve in Mozambique.

The Common Hippo makes wheeze honks which can be heard 750 metres (half a mile) away. A wheeze honk is the sound a hippo makes when it is announcing its presence – it is a noise that means, ‘I’m here, I’m coming.’ Then other hippos respond with their noises. 

The wheeze honk is the same sound for friends and strangers. However, with friends, a hippo makes a low and deep wheeze honk, and with strangers, its wheeze honk is higher in tone. 

Location of photographs: Kenya

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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