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CECEFA U20: Hippopotamus, Uganda’s identity unmasked

Uganda U-20 side the Hippos before apractice match against the Uganda Cranes on Wednesday at the FUFA technical center, Njeru. | FUFA media

When it comes to national football teams and nicknames, the ideas never fall far away from national emblems. This is notable here in Uganda where the senior team is named after the Crested Crane while the U-23 side is called the ‘Kobs’.

The two creatures gracefully complete Uganda’s national symbol, the Court of Arms, which adorns every public asset or letterhead. On the other hand, the Uganda tourism story is incomplete without the Crested Crane and the Kob.

Apart from football, the Crane is also a favourite for the netball fraternity (the She Cranes) and other sports as exemplified by names like the Rugby Cranes, Cricket Cranes, and Volleyball Cranes among many other national sports teams. 

And now with the 2019 CECAFA U-20 Championship set to kick off in Uganda, come September 21, 2019, through to October 5, 2019, the uninitiated local football fan will need to look out, not for the Cranes or the Kobs, but this time around, the ‘Hippos’.

Named after the Hippopotamus, the U-20 side is supposed to be the feeder side for the Kobs (U-23) before they graduate to the senior team the Cranes – the gigantic size of the hippo, in comparison to the kob and Crested Crane notwithstanding. 

The Hippopotamus

According to the, hippos are the third largest land mammal after the elephant and the rhinoceros. Their weight ranges between 1,500 kg and 1,800 kg, but surprisingly, Hippos are very agile with an adult male standing at 4 ft 5 inches.

Interestingly hippos have been estimated to reach terrifying speeds of up to 30 km per hour on land. That is almost faster than Juventus and Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, whose current fastest sprint has been recorded at 33.6 km per hour.

They are herbivores and primarily eat grass and generally feed at night. During daytime, the Hippos are in water to shield against the sun while their bodies emit a natural sunscreen, red in colour which some call ‘blood sweat’.

“An adult hippo consumes between 15 – 40 kg of grass in a night,” Queen Elizabeth National Park, tour guide, Robert Adaruku was quoted by the New Vision in April 2019.

“Hippos are very adaptable in water. For example, they walk on the bottom of rivers but are clumsy on land. They are able to float by breathing out before submerging which allows them to walk underwater.”

“They can remain submerged for up to six minutes because they can close their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering,” added Adaruku.

Because they don’t have sweat glands, hippos spend most of their days submerged in water to keep cool. They also reproduce and give birth in water and have a lifespan of about 40 to 50 years.

Like cattle, male hippos are called bulls, females are cows, and baby hippos are referred to as calves. 

They are considered to be some of the most dangerous animals in the world. On many occasions, tourists have been asked to keep their distance especially if they are on foot and the hippos are nearby.

The best places to see hippos in Uganda are, Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Lake Mburo Park, Murchison Falls Park, Queen Elizabeth Park – Kazinga Channel and Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe.

Addition reporting by New Vision, and

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