When I went on safari in Africa a couple of years ago, I was shocked at how big hippos are. Although not one of the big five animals, they probably should be. Until you have seen one close-up, you cannot imagine the sheer bulk they carry. It is not hard to imagine the damage they could do to you if you got on their wrong side. After watching a few of them for a while, I asked one of the guides if they were aggressive.
Hippos are one of the most aggressive animals in the world. They are the deadliest animal in Africa, killing up to 500 people every year. They are highly territorial and do not like to be disturbed. Hippos are extremely fast for their size, reaching speeds up to 48 km/h on land, the same as most humans, making them extremely dangerous.
The chances are that if you are around hippos, then it is probably safe to assume that you are either in a zoo, on safari, or a guided tour, so you should be relatively safe. However, hippos are wild animals and can be unpredictable, so always stay alert if you are around them.
Hippos Are Territorial
Hippos live in herds, known as bloats, of 10 to 20 individuals with a home range of about 200 meters along the shore. Males are highly territorial when in water and fiercely defend their immediate area against other males. A bull can control up to 100 meters of the river, although this will depend on how crowded the river is.
Hippos are the most aggressive in the dry season when overcrowding occurs. As the rivers dry out, hippos move upstream. This brings many more hippos together, and they are forced to congregate in larger numbers in areas where the river still contains water. This can cause many problems among these large animals. Hippos don’t tolerate intruders and feel threatened when other animals get too close.
Protecting Their Young
As with most animals, hippos become increasingly aggressive when caring for their young ones. Although a fully grown hippo has no natural predators, a young hippo can be preyed upon by predators such as lions or crocodiles. Although they are unlikely to attack when the mother is close, a young hippo that has been separated is a relatively easy target. Mothers will protect their young from other adults by charging them.
Introducing a young hippo to the group is not always easy for the mother. In 2015, a two-day-old hippo was introduced to the group by its mother. The group didn’t accept the young hippo, and while three of them kept the mother on the other side of the river, they brutally killed the youngster in the act of infanticide. It is still unknown why this incident happened, and fortunately, it is rare. However, the aggressiveness shown was so extreme that even experienced tour guides were shocked.
There is always a dominant hippo in every bloat, and they are the only male allowed to mate. If another male is allowed to enter the dominant male’s territory, it is understood that they do not have mating rights. Other males will turn aggressive when looking for a chance to mate with a female and attract hostility from the dominant male. Battles can be brutal, with some leading to the death of a hippo.
Why Are Hippos One Of The Deadliest Animals?
The hippo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and is known as the most deadly. They are responsible for up to 500 human deaths every year, although some estimates are 3,000. Hippos are deadly because they are unpredictable and temperamental. With their power, size, and firm bite, they can suddenly launch an attack on any animal they consider a threat.
Hippos are deadly because of the amount of force when they bite. While humans bite at 160 psi, a hippo can bite at 1,800 psi. That is almost double the force it would take to crush a bowling ball and nearly three times as strong as a lion biting down on you. Only great white sharks and saltwater crocodiles have a stronger bite than a hippo. Hippos have been known to bite a crocodile in half in one bite, so trapped in their jaws, a human would have little chance of survival.
Do Hippos Eat Other Animals?
Hippos are classed as herbivores but are omnivorous. Hippos have been seen to feed on meat, including the remains of other dead hippos. Hippos will also feed on wildebeest, impala, kudu, buffalo, and eland and have been known to predate them. Hippos have not been known to feed on humans; however, given the opportunity, there is no evidence to say they wouldn’t.
A hippo’s main diet is grass, eating up to 68kg. Hippos graze on the land and not in the water. They feed on a variety of short grasses and reeds.
Do Hippos Attack Humans?
Hippos attack people when they perceive them as a threat to them and their territory. Hippos are very territorial, and unfortunately, most humans don’t realize that they’ve become a threat to them until it’s too late. Many people canoeing on a shallow river have been killed by a submerged hippo, not realizing they were so close to them.
It often becomes riskier when the hippos are the ones hunting the humans. Hippos are cunning and can hide under the water’s surface without humans detecting them. While in the water, a hippo can move at 8 km/h, faster than most people can paddle a canoe. Due to their size, it is easy to underrate a hippo’s agility.
How Do Hippos Attack?
Hippos can reach over 4,000 kg, and their massive size helps them overpower a predator. Hippos can open their jaws wide, allowing them to bite down with incredible force. Hippos have been known to bit alligators in half with one bite, but if they don’t, they can use their weight to throw them around or pull them under the water.
When fighting other hippos, they use their large canines to inflict injuries and incisors to deflect bites. Fights can often be to the death between two male hippos. Seeing two animals of this size fighting is a truly spectacular sight.
Although you wouldn’t believe it by looking at them, hippos can also be highly stealthy. There have been several fatal boat accidents where hippos have walked along the river’s bottom and knocked over the boat or canoe as they have come up, seemingly from nowhere. They do not do this to hunt or eat humans but because they are territorial.