AN AMAZING FACT: What animal has killed more people in Africa than any other? If you guessed the lion or crocodile you are wrong! It’s the hippopotamus. When you see a hippo yawning and stretching open his giant mouth, it is not because he is lazy, tired, or bored. It is actually a threat gesture. The hippo shows off his long, thick, razor-sharp canine teeth to tell you “back away.” They are fearlessly protective of their turf and have even been known to bite a small boat in half!
The name “hippopotamus” comes from two Greek words: “hippo” means horse and “potamus” means river. They live in the central and southern parts of Africa (and up along the Nile River). These big vegetarian creatures can weigh up to 4,000 pounds and love to live in rivers with deep water. They will eat grass, fallen fruit, and sometimes cultivated crops at night. They spend most of the day in the water. Hippos can grow to 17 feet long and 5 feet tall with a big mouth (over two feet across). They are the third largest animal in Africa, after the elephant and rhinoceros. And if you think this big animal is slow, hippos can easily outrun a human being and have been clocked at 19 mph for short distances.
We often think of someone who is courageous being as strong as a lion. But the Zulu warriors preferred to be compared to the hippopotamus. The bite of a hippo has actually been measured by scientists at 1,821 foot-pounds. The jaw hinge on a hippo is located so far back that it can open its mouth to almost 180 degrees. Those big teeth in the lower jaw can grow to 20 inches and are sharp. It’s a good idea to stay clear of the hippo, which has been called the most aggressive creature in the world and certainly the most dangerous animal in Africa.
The Bible speaks about an aggressive animal with a large mouth that we should avoid. In describing the church, Christ, and Satan, John writes, “And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born” (Revelation 12:4). Later, this same dragon spewed water out of its mouth to try to carry the woman away and destroy her (verse 15.) The serpent, Satan, is depicted in the Bible as the most aggressive creature on Earth. But we are safe from his attacks when we stay close to Jesus.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. Isaiah 43:2