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Hippos can become airborne at high speed, full trot: Study

(NewsNation) — For the first time, researchers found that hippopotamuses lift all four limbs off the ground when moving at high speeds over land, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the United Kingdom discovered this after analyzing video footage of hippos at Flamingo Land, a theme park in North Yorkshire, England. They studied 169 strides from 46 trials involving 32 hippos and found that the fastest-moving animals spend about 15% of each stride off the ground.

Hippos tend to move fast when motivated, such as chasing rivals or being chased by predators like lions or rhinos, per the study.

Researchers noted previous studies claimed that hippos moved similarly to elephants due to their size, with a sequential leg movement “of left hind, left fore, right hand, right fore.” However, the footage showed that hippos can lift all four feet off the ground for an instant, about 0.3 seconds.

Additionally, researchers found that hippos almost exclusively trot, moving two diagonal limbs in unison, regardless of speed. This contrasts with other mammals like horses, which change gait from walk to trot to gallop based on their speed.

John Hutchinson, the study’s lead author and a professor of evolutionary biomechanics at the RVC, said these findings could help improve the management of hippos in captivity and aid in detecting and monitoring physical health issues in these animals.