The hippopotamus is regarded as one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and has a bite that can cut a small boat in half. However, the visitors at Zurich Zoo, where both animals live, were amazed to see the zebra craning its neck into the mouth of the water-loving mammal.
But their surprise increased when they realised the striped creature was cleaning the hippo’s teeth. The extraordinary spectacle was captured by Jill Sonsteby, a photographer, at Zurich Zoo, in Switzerland.
The 34-year-old, from Jacksonville, Florida, USA, said: “The zebra was in the same enclosure as the hippo and its baby. The hippo opened its mouth and let the zebra in there to clean. They literally did that for the 20 of us zoo-goers for about 15 minutes. There was no harm done to the zebra. Everybody was snapping pictures of the sight. They thought it was really sweet. It was so great to be there at that moment.”
Despite being just five feet tall, the hippo, weighing up to three tonnes, is the third largest mammal in the world. Its impressive jaw measures two feet across and can be opened to 150 degrees. Its bite-pressure has been measured at 1,821 pounds – enough to snap a small boat in half.
Despite its hefty frame, the hippo can out run a human on land with speeds of up to 19 miles per hour over short distances. In water, adult hippos cannot swim but propel themselves along at speeds of up to five miles per hour.