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Hippopotamus, also known as the hippo, is the second-largest land mammal after the elephant. To grow, they need to eat a lot every day.

Hippos are herbivores, although they will eat both plants and meat. They eat up to 40 kg of food every day, consisting of vegetation and fruit. Hippos will only eat meat when there is a lack of food to graze on, as their stomachs are not suited to digest meat.

It is a semi-aquatic mammal and the closest relative of whales, dolphins, and pigs. Hippos have large heads and bodies with short tails and legs. Hippos’ skin usually appears greyish or muddy-brown. 

Although Hippos feed on plants, they are the most dangerous animals globally. Hippos can run faster than humans. A yawning hippo is not tired or sleepy but shows its teeth to scare humans and other animals. 

Research shows that Hippos are the largest land mammal killers in the world. These semi-aquatic species kill an average of 500 people a year in Africa with their sharp teeth. The average weight of a hippo ranges between 3,000 and 9,000 pounds. 

Hippos use their weight to crush humans and other animals when they feel threatened. There are dozens of exciting facts about Hippos. The question is: What do hippos eat? In today’s article, we will answer this question and give you relevant information. 

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What Do Hippos Eat? 

Hippos are vegetarian mammals, meaning they primarily graze on the land and eat grass. Hippos do not feed on aquatic plants. So, they don’t eat in the water and usually prefer short grass and tiny green shoots. 

In addition, hippos consume almost all kinds of vegetation except for coarser grasses because their stomach can’t digest them. These semi-aquatic species likewise eat fruits but avoid the buried ones. 

Hippos relatively have a less nutritional diet, but their bodies are well-adapted. The hippopotamus has a unique stomach structure and function. Unlike other mammals that graze on grass, hippos have multiple chambers in their stomach and a much longer intestinal tract. 

Hippos have slower digestion rates, allowing the stomach to extract more nutrients from the food. The 15-20 inches long canines and incisors help hippos eat plenty of grass. There are two different species of hippos: common hippos and Pygmy hippos. 

Common hippos primarily feed on grasses and leaves, whereas Pygmy hippos consume leaves, ferns, fruits, and roots or forest plants. These hippos do not consume a lot of grass and have a more nutrient-rich diet than common hippos. 

Hippos eat fruits to get vitamin A, C, E, iron, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, and other essential nutrients. The purpose is to maintain their body functions, including metabolism and homeostasis. 

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Do Hippos Eat Meat?

Hippos are large mammals with aggressive nature, intense behaviour, and fearsome tusks. However, the hippos’ diet constitutes plan-based food, such as greases, leaves, ferns, and fruits. Although hippos are heavy grass eaters, they also eat meat when they feel stressed, experience unhealthy behaviour, or lack grass. 

Some studies show that Hippos eat carrion and flesh, but this occurs rarely. Bear in mind that the stomach anatomy of a hippo is not suitable for meat consumption. Occasional meat consumption does not affect a hippo’s overall health. However, if it consumes more meat due to nutritional stress, it may lead to health complications. 

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Which Animals Do Hippos Eat?

Although scientists have classified hippos as herbivorous, some studies show that these species eat other animals, such as calves, crocodiles, wild cows, lions, etc. Crocodiles and hippos are ferocious enemies and attack each other in the wild habitats. 

While crocodiles attach hippo calves and kill them, hippos rarely attack baby crocodiles. Moreover, hippos can kill and devour large animals more than other mammals due to their territorial abilities and aggressive behaviour.

The primary reason hippos kill and eat other animals is when there is a lack of grass, fruits, and ferns in their habitat. So, when there isn’t something to eat, they prey on other animals to fulfil their dietary and nutritional needs. 

Do Hippos Eat their Calves?

Familial cannibalism is common among specific animal species, including lions, bears, hyenas, wolves, and hippos. Male hippos are more aggressive than female hippos, and when two male hippos fight, each tries to attack the opponent’s calves to maintain its dominance. 

Thus, the male hippo will chase calve and crush them to defeat the opponent. Likewise, male hippos kill calves to increase their mating chances with females. That way, they kill calves fathered by other male hippos. Some hippos kill their children when their family is overpopulated or fears disease. 

Scientists and biologists have not fully understood why hippos kill their children. More research is needed to find facts about hippos’ cannibalistic behaviour. Anyway, it is challenging to study invasive animals, such as hippos. 

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Are Hippos Omnivores?

The answer is “Yes” and “No.” Zoologists have not classified hippos as fully omnivores because their digestive system is not powerful enough to absorb and assimilate animal-based food. So, the widely accepted opinion is that hippos are neither carnivores nor omnivores but are herbivores. 

It means hippos eat plant-based food to fulfil their nutritional requirements. Most of their diet contains grass, but they eat fruit and ferns when they can’t find grass. Some reports highlight that hippos rarely attack, kill, and eat crocodiles

Hippos have a unique digestive system with three stomach chambers that perform foregut fermentation processes. These semi-aquatic mammals don’t have a four-chambered gut with hindgut fermenters and micro bacteria in the foregut. 

Thus, it is pretty tricky for their stomach to digest meat content and extract nutrients. So, hippos are herbivores that feed on short grass, tiny shoots, green plants, ferns, and fruits. 


Final Words 

Hippos are herbivores that consume grasses and fresh, green vegetation. Although these species are aggressive and have sharp teeth, they rarely kill and eat other animals. Hippos will eat various fruits in the wild to balance their metabolic processes. 

Calves or baby hippos suck their mother’s milk underwater. However, baby hippos have relatively a short period (usually 7-8 months) of suckling on their mothers for milk. When calves are three weeks old, they start eating grasses and other vegetation. 

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