Hey! I just found out this fun fact: The hippopotamus kills more people in Africa than any other animal! More than the cheetah, elephant or lion. Imagine!
Now, it's important to remember that this blessed and magical creature is by nature vegetarian(ie smart), but when threatened, Mr. Hippo can open his mouth wide enough to fit a four-foot child. So, no letting little Johnnie get too close to the "yawning" hippo at the zoo! (They don't yawn, by the way. I know on that segment on Sesame Street, "Everybody Sleeps", it looks like the hippo is lazily prepping for a peaceful nap. But really he is feeling threatened by the schmuck camera man trying to film him and he's opening his mouth to expose his razor-sharp tusks. He is saying, I can and will bite holes in you. Get out of my grill, motherfucker.)
According to this study by Duke University, here are the top two ways people get killed by hippos:
1) Boating accidents - A hippo can fall asleep while resting underwater. In the same way we roll over while we are asleep, a hippo will lift it's nose above the water about every five minutes without even waking up. People in canoes passing by a sleeping hippo may never know a sleeping hippo is in the river until they whack it with a paddle. (Waking a sleeping hippo by whacking it with a paddle is never a good idea.) (note: Ha ha ha!!!)
2) Encounters at night - The only time hippos move far from the water is at night when they go to feed. People in Africa don't have many of their roads lit up by street lights. Often, people don't realize they are about to cross paths with a feeding hippo until it's too late. Hippos may charge if they are startled by a person passing in the dark. (Startling a hippo in the dark is also never a good idea.) (note: neither is startling the homeless guy on Lexington Avenue standing next to the dumpster with only one eye and the Night of the Living Dead gash across his forehead. Leave him be. Trust me on this.)