Hippos are beautiful animals. Although they resemble water-born cows, they are more closely linked to pigs. These semi-aquatic creatures can grow up to 5.2 feet in height, 16.5 feet in length, and weigh 9,900 pounds. Hippos were portrayed as gentle giants in early media depictions. They were once thought to be slow, lazy, and tranquil herbivores that spent their entire lives in the water, yet this couldn’t be further from the truth! These enormous animals are the deadliest huge land mammal on the planet. They are responsible for the deaths of over 500 persons in Africa each year!
Hippo Facts to Keep in Mind
The hippo has a distinctive set of teeth. The teeth of an animal that eats plants are not designed for foraging grass. Instead, they promote massive canines that resemble those of a sabre-tooth cat. These teeth are employed in aggressive demonstrations as well as to defend against intruders. These teeth are highly effective, measuring almost a foot and a half long!
Hippopotamuses typically eat grassland along the coast at night, but they aren’t exclusively herbivores. Impala, kudu, eland, wildebeest, and buffalo have all been reported to be killed by them. There is information that they are predators as well as occasional meat eaters. It’s even been stated that they devour each other on occasion! Although they do not appear to kill and consume humans, hippo fatality is far too common.
Hippos have been known to venture out of the water to search for food. They can consume up to 80 pounds of grass per night, quickly depleting local food supplies. Scientists have observed them searching for food for a kilometer or more at night.
This type of roaming activity has brought them into confrontation with people. Cattle and other large creatures have been witnessed being chased by them. They also like consuming crops grown by humans.
How to Deal with a Hippo
- Stay away from hippos. Respect their space since hippos are territorial and vicious when they feel threatened. Give them a wide space when you see them in the water to stay on their good side. Traveling through streams clogged with hippos is not recommended. A “yawning” or “laughing” hippo is an aggressive indicator that could indicate an impending attack. On land, avoid getting in the way of a hippo.
- Don’t approach a hippo from behind. Save your “sneaking” for mega-predators like lions, wolves, and polar bears who might want to eat you if they notice you. Make your presence known to the hippos. Hippos can stay underwater for up to 6 minutes. If you’re swimming or in a small boat and see a hippo surface far away, slap the water with an item like a paddle repeatedly. This will make the hippos aware of your presence, reducing the chances of them unintentionally surfacing near to you. If you can avoid it, don’t smack with your hands — crocodiles (who live near hippos) are attracted to splashing and love hands!
- Hippos should be avoided in shallow water. Hippos prefer to stay in regions where the water is deep enough for them to completely submerge as a defensive strategy. When a hippo is forced to swim in shallow water owing to drought or territorial issues with other hippos, it will feel uneasy and lash out without warning. Consider these hippos to be the most harmful in the water, and give them more room. To avoid overheating, a hippo in ideal conditions will keep as much of its body submerged as necessary during the day. Only its head and back will break the surface, allowing it to breathe.
- Hippos should be avoided inland. Keep your eyes peeled for the nearest body of water. Allow a hippo a clear passage to the water whenever you see one on land. Even if you keep a polite distance and do not pose a risk to the hippo, keep in mind that something else could spook it at any time. Expect it to retreat to the water’s safety. Keep a safe distance from it. If you find yourself in front of a hippo trying to get to the water, run to the side. The hippo has no interest in you, but if you race for the water as well, it may outrun you or perceive you as a threat.
- Run for safety. Be careful, hippos can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour if they charge you (45 kph). In a straight sprint, do not try to outrun a hippo. Immediately seek shelter. Use natural cover and barriers like trees, rocks, hills, and termite mounds to impede the hippo’s progress if no structures or cars are visible. Remember that if a hippo charges you, it is because you have intruded on its domain. It should give up the chase once you’ve achieved enough distance from there.
- Anticipate that they’ll be on land at night. Hippos are nocturnal creatures. Expect to see them cooling down in the water during the day. Travel with caution at night, as hippos will leave the water in search of food. Reduce the chance of their becoming startled in the dark. To enhance your chances of spotting each other from afar, stick to open spaces. Travel gently to avoid coming across them unexpectedly. Hippos can wander up to 3 miles (5 kilometers) away from their waterways in search of food. They may also relocate to smaller bodies of water located further inland.
- Calves should be avoided. You should never interact with a young hippo, regardless of how appealing they appear. Mother hippos are fiercely protective of their offspring and will leap to their rescue if they believe they are being harmed in any way. It’s important to note that just because you’re seeing the calf doesn’t mean the mother isn’t around.
Hopefully, you will never be in this precarious circumstance. Hippos are the most lethal animal in Africa, and their attacks leave very few people alive. Fortunately for you, you’re unlikely to come across them by chance. You are not in danger of running into a hippo, unlike poisonous snakes or spiders, which you can easily walk into. While we’ve covered various ways to defend yourself, the best approach to avoid being attacked by a hippo is to stay away!