name = Hippopotamidae
fossil_range = Middle Miocene to Recent

image_width = 250px
image_caption = "Hippopotamus amphibius"
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Artiodactyla
familia = Hippopotamidae
familia_authority = Gray, 1821
subdivision_ranks = Subtaxa
subdivision = †"Trilobophorous afarensis" Geze, 1985

Hippopotaminae Gray, 1821
* "Hippopotamus"
* "Choeropsis"
* †"Hexaprotodon"
* †"Archaeopotamus"
* †"Saotherium"

†Kenyapotaminae Pickford, 1983
* †"Kenyapotamus"
* †"Palaeopotamus

Hippopotamuses (colloquially also "Hippopotami") are the members of the family Hippopotamidae. They are the only extant artiodactyls which walk on four toes on each foot.


Hippopotamids are large mammals, with short, stumpy legs, and barrel-shaped bodies. They have large heads, with broad mouths, and nostrils placed at the top of the snout. Like pigs, they have four toes, but unlike pigs, all of the toes are used in walking. Hippopotamids are unguligrade, although, unlike most other such animals, they have no hooves, instead using a pad of tough connective tissue. Their stomach has three chambers, but they are not true ruminants.

The living species are both smooth-skinned, and lack both sebaceous glands and sweat glands. The outer epidermis is relatively thin, so that hippos dehydrate rapidly in dry environments.cite book |editor=Macdonald, D.|author= Laws, Richard|year=1984 |title= The Encyclopedia of Mammals|publisher= Facts on File|location=New York|pages= 506-511|isbn= 0-87196-871-1]

Both the incisors and canines are large and tusk-like, although the canine tusks are by far the largest. The tusks grow throughout life. The postcanine teeth are large and complex, suited for chewing the plant matter that composes their diet. The number of incisors varies even within the same species, but the general dental formula is:dentition2|2-|1-


The hippopotamids are descended from the anthracotheres, a family of semi-aquatic artiodactyls that appeared sometime during the late Eocene, and are popularly thought to have resembled small- or narrow-headed hippos. More specifically, the hippos split off from the anthracotheres some time during the Miocene. After the appearance of the true hippopotamids, the anthracotheres went into a decline brought about by a combination of climatic change and competition with their descendants, until the last genus, "Merycopotamus", died out in the early Pliocene of Africa.

There were once many species of hippopotamid, but only two survive today: "Hippopotamus amphibius", and "Choeropsis liberiensis". They are the last survivors of two major evolutionary lineages, the hippos proper and the pygmy hippos, respectively; these lineages could arguably be considered subfamilies but their relationships to each other - apart from being fairly distant relatives - are not well resolved.

The enigmatic Miocene "Kenyapotamus" is insufficiently known to be assigned a place in the hippo phylogeny with any degree of certainty. In addition, the genus "Hexaprotodon", in a sense now restricted to an extinct group of animals once living around the northern and northeastern Indian Ocean, which formerly included most ancient hippos, turned out to be paraphyletic.


The systematics and taxonomy used here mostly follows the review of Boisserie (2005) [Boisserie identifies the species "Hippopotamus minor" as "Phanourios minutus", but this genus is not widely recognized.] .

Genus "Hippopotamus" - true hippopotami
*"Hippopotamus amphibius" - Hippopotamus
*"Hippopotamus antiquus" - European Hippopotamus (prehistoric)
*"Hippopotamus creutzburgi" - Cretan Dwarf Hippopotamus (prehistoric)
*"Hippopotamus minor" - Cyprus Dwarf Hippopotamus (prehistoric)
*"Hippopotamus melitensis" - Maltese Hippopotamus (prehistoric)
*"Hippopotamus pentlandi" - Sicilian Hippopotamus (prehistoric)
*"Hippopotamus lemerlei" - Lemerle's Hippopotamus or Madagascan Dwarf Hippopotamus (prehistoric)
*"Hippopotamus laloumena" - Lesser Madagascar Hippopotamus (prehistoric)
*"Hippopotamus gorgops" - Gorgon-eyed Hippopotamus (fossil)Tentatively placed into "Hippopotamus":
*"Hippopotamus karumensis" (fossil)
*"Hippopotamus aethiopicus" (fossil)
*"Hippopotamus protamphibius" (fossil)
*"Hippopotamus coryndoni" (fossil)
*"Hippopotamus afarensis" (fossil) - formerly genus "Trilobophorus"Genus "Hexaprotodon" - hexaprotodons or Asian hippopotami
*"Hexaprotodon palaeindicus" - Indian Hippopotamus (fossil)
*"Hexaprotodon namadicus" - Lesser Indian Hippopotamus (fossil) - possibly same as "H. palaeindicus"
*"Hexaprotodon bruneti" - Afar Hexaprotodon (fossil)
*"Hexaprotodon sivalensis" - Sivalik Hippopotamus (fossil)
*"Hexaprotodon" sp. - Myanmar Hippopotamus (fossil)
* and some Indonesian species from the PleistoceneGenus "Archaeopotamus" - formerly included in "Hexaprotodon"
*"Archaeopotamus harvardi" (fossil)
*"Archaeopotamus lothagamensis" (fossil)
*and 1-2 undescribed species

Genus "Choeropsis" - pygmy hippopotami
*"Choeropsis liberiensis" - Pygmy Hippopotamus
*"Choeropsis madagascariensis" - Madagascan Pygmy Hippopotamus (prehistoric)Genus "Saotherium" - formerly included in "Hexaprotodon"
*"Saotherium mingoz" (fossil)

References and Notes

* Boisserie, Jean-Renaud (2005): The phylogeny and taxonomy of Hippopotamidae (Mammalia: Artiodactyla): a review based on morphology and cladistic analysis. "Zool. J. Linn. Soc." 143(1): 1-26. DOI|10.1111/j.1096-3642.2004.00138.x (HTML abstract)
* Petronio, C. (1995): Note on the taxonomy of Pleistocene hippopotamuses. "Ibex" 3: 53-55. [http://www.mountainecology.org/IBEX3/pdf/Art_Capitolo1/note_taxonomy_pleistocene.pdf PDF fulltext]

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