Hippopotamuses are silly-looking creatures. They have a pig-like body and a huge mouth that can open up to an astounding 180 degrees. Hippos have tiny tails, and their tails make them look even funnier.
The small tail hanging from their behind looks funny compared to their giant bodies. But no matter how funny it seems, it is a very useful organ to them. It helps to sprinkle their feces all around their territories.
Do Hippos Have Tails?
Hippos have a small tail that grows up to 22 inches. This tail has a small tuft hanging at the end of it. It is flat in shape and nearly hairless, and It is the same color as the hippo’s body.
Hippos are vertebrates classified under the phylum Chordata. Which means their spine grows a small bone at the bottom. This bone is seen in the baby when in its mother’s womb. It further develops into a full-grown tail.
Humans also have this bone as a fetus. Yet their bones don’t grow into tails with further body development. This small bone at the bottom of the spine is called a coccyx for a human.
What Does a Hippo Use Its Tail For?
The hippopotamus is an awful creature when it comes to defecation. It poops in the water holes. Their feces sink to the bottom of the river. This poop is deadly for both the fishes and aquatic plants.
Because the hippo bloats defecate at the same place. So many pounds of feces start to decompose under the water. The bacteria decomposing the wastes need oxygen to survive. It gets oxygen from the water. Hence the water is deoxygenized. Plants and fishes can’t survive in the water that has no oxygen.
However, Hippos also pee from the backside. While peeing or pooping, they spin their tails like propellers. This results in the pee and the waste being sprinkled all around their surroundings. The range could cover over 10 meters. Whenever you see a hippopotamus blasting its urination or defecation around, move away or take cover.
However, hippos do this to let other members of their species know that the territory belongs to them. They have a keen sense of smell. So whenever they are in an area, they can smell the dung and the urine. It indicates to them that they are in the area of another hippo. So they become more alert.
The prime male of a group of 10 to 30 individuals does this fanning activity with its tail. That lets other group members know who is the boss around here. It is also a sign of dominance over other male hippopotamuses in the bloat. They know that they are under the domination of another prime male when they smell the urine and waste.
If somebody violates the territorial codes of conduct, he faces the prime bull’s temper. Because we know hippopotamuses are territorial beings. They become very aggressive and agile if their land is under attack. They even kill lions and impale Nile crocodiles in the fight.
Sometimes, when a young bull wants to challenge the sigma bull of a group, he sprinkles his urine using the tail in the same place where the sigma sprayed his urine. It is a sign of defiance towards the sigma. The prime male then gets angry, and a bloody battle takes place.
In often cases, the enthusiastic young male is defeated and is left with no choice but to flee.
The Tail Tales
The tail of a hippopotamus carries myths within itself. The Bushmen are some of the indigenous people that have been living in Southern Africa for thousands of years.
Some of their tales indicate that God didn’t want hippopotami to live in the water. He thought that an animal so big could eat all the fish. But the hippo then requested God and swore to eat grass only. So God reconsidered his decision but with a condition.
He decided to give the animal a small tail, and the beast has to propel his scut whenever he poops. That way, God would know that there are no fish bones in the dung.
Do hippos have tails? Yes, they do. But it is tiny compared to their bodies. They use it to spray dung around.
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