Although several aspects of the digestive physiology of the hippopotamidae-non-ruminating foregut fermenters-have been described, ingesta kinetics and passage characteristics of these species are not well understood. The most outstanding feature of the hippo digestive physiology reported so far is the very long mean ingesta retention times (MRTs) measured by Foose [Foose, T., 1982. Trophic strategies of ruminant versus nonruminant ungulates. PhD dissertation, University of Chicago, Chicago.]. Since those data had been investigated with animals without water access, we intended to measure MRT in hippos which were allowed to enter water pools during the night. MRT parameters as well as dry matter (DM) digestibility were determined in four common (Hippopotamus amphibius) and four pygmy hippos (Hexaprotodon liberiensis) on two different diets each using cobalt ethylendiamintetraacetate (Co-EDTA) as a fluid, chromium (Cr)-mordanted fibre (<2 mm) as a particle and acid detergent lignin (ADL) as an internal digestibility marker. Four of the animals additionally received cerium (Ce)-mordanted fibres (2-10 mm) as particle markers. Total MRTs for fluids and particles ranged between 20-35 and 48-106 h in the common and between 13-39 and 32-107 h in the pygmy hippos. The difference between fluid and particle retention was greater than usually reported in ruminants. Excretion patterns of the markers differed from those usually observed in ruminants but resembled those reported for macropods (kangaroos), indicating a plug-flow reactor-like physiology in the hippo forestomach (FRST). This finding complements other described similarities between the macropod and the hippo forestomach. The measurements of larger particle retention profiles suggest that in the hippo, larger particles might be excreted either faster or at the same rate as smaller particles, indicating a general difference between ruminants and hippos with respect to differential particle retention. The digestive physiology of hippos is characterised by a generally low food intake, long ingesta retention times and dry matter digestibilities lower than reported in ruminants. Moderate digestibilities in spite of long retention times might be the result of the generally high average ingesta particle size in hippos. The comparatively easy management of pygmy hippos, together with the significant correlations between food intake, MRT and digestibility in the pygmy hippos of this study, recommends this species for further studies on the interplay of these parameters in herbivore digestive physiology.