Some say hippopotamuses are related to deers. Others say they are related to pigs. As we all know pigs & deers both have divided hooves. So the hippopotamuses must have this “hoof” too, right? Some modern studies have found hippos to be related to whales. But then where is the hoof of a whale? Did they lose it on their journey to evolution?
But do hippos have hooves? Yes, the hippo has quite unique hooves that differentiate them from the rest of the hoofed mammals. Their incredible feet are not similar to other Artiodactyla. So let’s jump right into this fabulous matter.
What is a hoof & do hippos have it?
The hoof is a solid covering that’s principal purpose is to protect the toes. They also help the animal to run very fast. The strong limb is generally made of keratin. It is a type of protein that is the main element in human hair & nails.
Mammals with hoofed toes are called “Ungulates”. It simply means that all ungulates are connected through some ancestors. There are two types of ungulates. One group has odd-toed hooves such as horses & rhinoceros & the other is even-toed such as deers & pigs & cattle.
The hippos however don’t quite fit in these two classifications. Their hooves are a little different. The hippo hoof is more like nails. Camels from the dessert have similar ones. The strong covering doesn’t fully cover their feet like other ungulates. Rather it covers a small part in the front. But it helps them however with balancing & running.
Toes of a Hippopotamus
The Hippopotamus has a barrel-shaped body balanced on stumpy legs. They have four toes in each foot. Every toe has solid keratin covering on them. Hippopotamus’ toes are webbed together with very thick skin. This specialized toe mechanism helps them to swim with more ease. A vigorous push from the webbed toes allows them to glide gracefully through the waters of Africa.
Hippopotami are less fat & more muscle. They are so dense that they sink like a rock & immediately reach the bottom of the river. After that using their immense muscle power they torpedo through the waters of Sub-Saharan Africa. It appears as if they’re living in a microgravity environment.
The keratin limbs also allow them to run really really fast. The average hippo can run at the speed of Usain Bolt. So it is impossible to outrun this charging giant in the wild.
Hooves & herbivores
One may easily notice the relation of food habits & feet of animals. Herbivores generally have hoofed feet. This allows them to graze more easily without damaging their toes. It also helps them to outrun the predators in the wild.
But having too long an amount of these solid limbs can be quite hectic. It may even limit their movement. As a result, they aren’t able to find their food by themselves. For this reason, horses are seen to hit the ground with their heels. This allows them to keep the heels healthy & not grow too much.
Like many other herbivores Hippopotamuses also have hoofed feet & not clawed. Claws are a characteristic seen in carnivorous animals.
Hippos & whales
So if hippopotami & whales are connected then where is the hoof of a whale?
It has been proven by scientists for a hippopotamus to have an actual connection with whales & dolphins.
Surprisingly whales & dolphins lost their hoofed legs when they migrated back to the water millions of years ago. Before that, they roamed on land & had feet & also hoofed toes!
Hoofed-legged mammals are not uncommon in the animal kingdom. The ungulates are connected way back in time. Scientists are still researching them. There is a lot still to learn about hippopotami & their hoofed feet.