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  • Writer's pictureJulien Biget

Can a hippo swim?

Updated: Jan 2

hippos swimming Botswana
Lerato Adventures – Can a hippo swim?

Ever asked yourself if a hippo can swim? The answer is no, hippos cannot swim.

To best understand this answer let’s first talk about what swimming is. Swimming is the ability to remain at the surface of a water body through your own propulsion. And hippos are incapable of swimming or remaining at the surface for extended periods of time. They can however use their buoyancy to get to the surface and take a breath, before they must submerge back down again. Hippos are incredibly unadapted to an aquatic environment. They can’t swim, they can’t hold their breath for more than about 6 or 7 minutes at a time and they aren’t aquadynamic at all! This is amazing for an animal that spends its entire life in the water, or daylight hours at least. So now we ask ourselves, why do they live in the water? The answer lies with their skin. They have extremely sensitive skin, which is susceptible to severe dehydration by the sun. They have a mechanism to prevent this, but this requires moisture to work. They have large glands in their skin, similar to our sweat glands. These glands are large and can be seen when looking closely at hippo skin. From these glands hippos secrete a substance commonly known as “blood sweat”. Called blood sweat because of its red colouration, almost giving the impression that the hippo is bleeding. This blood sweat is a natural anti-biotic and sunscreen, used to protect their skin from injury and sunshine, and it only works when it is wet or moist, hence their need to live in the water.

hippo botswana
Lerato Adventures – Can a hippo swim?

Source: Photo by Catherine Merlin on Unsplash



Julien T. Biget
Lerato Adventures – Julien T. Biget

Julien is French and Scottish, born in 1988 in Nairobi Kenya.

He's a professional Nature Guide and Trails Guide speaking both French and English. He has been lucky enough to have worked in some of the most amazing destinations Africa has to offer, from East Africa to Southern Africa, as well as some time in Central Africa.

From a very young age he knew he needed to work with animals, big or small, and somewhere in nature. He was always picking creatures up and trying to see the world from their perspective, trying to understand them as much as possible, mesmerised by their shapes and colours. He liked to share this passion with everyone around, always trying to get them involved in his discoveries. Nature is all around us, in Europe, Asia or Africa, all we have to do is realise it.

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