Hippos can give birth on land or in water, but newborns face major risks either way. Hippos tend to give birth more often in water, away from predators on land and less effort for the female. However male hippos will only attack the offspring while they are in water not on land, a risk the mother has to take. It is not known why adult males only attack young hippos in the water but it is suggested that this is because young male hippos may be seen as a potential threat. Also mating occurs in the water, therefore the removal of a newborn allows the mother to become in oestrous again so the male can start a brood of his own (just as with many other species, including lions, tigers and gorillas).
Hippo newborns have an eight month gestation period and once born they know instinctively how to move in water. Remarkably, new-borns can only hold their breath for half a minute at a time therefore the mother pushes the new-born to the surface in order for it to breathe, and other times it rests on its mothers back when the water is too deep.
How do they feed underwater? Newborns feed exactly the same as they do on land, and have adapted to suckle underwater by taking a deep breath, closing their nostrils and ears and then wrap their tongue tightly around their mother's teat.
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