Here's Proof Hippos Do Whatever They Want

Even predators like crocodiles and lions are safer avoiding one of the most aggressive animals on Earth.

By Elaina Zachos
Published 21 Dec 2017, 12:24 GMT
A hippopotamus photographed at San Antonio Zoo in Texas.
Photograph by Joël Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Ah, the majestic hippopotamus. The herbivorous mammals weigh between one-and-a-half and four tons, and they can grow up to 14 feet long. Nicknamed "river horses" by ancient Greeks, the animals spend up to 16 hours each day lumbering along the bottoms of rivers and lakes in sub-Saharan Africa, with only their eyes and nostrils bobbing above the surf.

Although they primarily only eat plants — munching on about 80 pounds of grass each day — hippos are one of the most aggressive animals on Earth. They can snap a canoe in half with their powerful jaws, and they kill about 500 people in Africa each year.

But this species is vulnerable and their numbers are decreasing. They're threatened by habitat loss and illegal hunting, as they're targeted for their meat and ivory canine teeth. The largest concentration in Africa is in Zambia's Luangwa Valley.

With a nod to this colorful, charismatic species, below are some of our favorite hippo videos of 2017:

Young Hippo Tries to Play With Crocodile

In the murky water, the hippo calf pursues a crocodile, playfully nudging and chasing it around while the reluctant reptile tries to ignore the 100-pound pest. The young river horse brings the one-sided game up onto land, where it continues to poke at the croc. But the crocodile wants nothing to do with the calf and passively snaps at it.

The pairing is unusual because normally, crocodiles eat hippo calves, and hippos will usually only play within their species.

The unlikely match doesn't last too long. The croc gets its way when a herd of elephants come along and chase the hippo away.

Young Hippo Tries to Play with a Crocodile

This Hippo isn't bothered by a Lion Attack

Another animal you don't want to get too close to in the wild is the lion. Although the big cats usually hunt easier prey than hippos, they might still go after nature's tanks.

In this video, a lion latches onto a hippo's rump in a vain attempt to take the river horse down. But the lion lets go, letting another member of its pride take a stab at the unstoppable, waddling prey. Two more of the big cats try to get in on the action, but as the group jogs on, the hippo seems unfazed.

When faced with danger, hippos can run at the same speed as humans for short distances. The hippo in the video reportedly escaped.

This Hippo Isn’t Bothered by Lion Attack
Tourists in Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, witnessed an unusual sight—a pride of lions attempting to take down a hippo. Lions usually hunt easier targets, and it's rare to see them attack bigger prey. Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, and one of the most aggressive in the world. Their powerful jaws can snap a canoe in half, and they kill more people in Africa each year than any disease except malaria. The hippo reportedly escaped.

Lions are curious creatures. And around some of the most aggressive animals on Earth, the big cats still need to watch their backs.

The lion in this video isn't as lucky as those in the last clip. Here, the curious big cat approaches a resting hippo likely just to check it out. It strolls up to the river horse and sniffs its rear, which riles the animal into moving. The lion nudges the hippo a few more times, but then the hippo rises up and whips around.

The lion realizes its mistake too late and starts to jog away. The hippo pursues it, knocking it off course and grasping its head between its powerful jaws, which can clamp down at more than a thousand pounds per square inch.

The hippo wrestles the animal to the ground before letting go, and the lion bolts in the opposite direction. The big cat was later found dying and bleeding from its mouth with internal injuries.


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