How Strong Is A Hippo? Hippo Bite Force and 12 Other Facts


How Strong Is A Hippo

After elephants and white rhinos, the hippopotamus is the third-largest land mammal. Hippos live partly in water and partly on land. Predominantly, hippos are herbivores, but in rare scenarios, they could also scavenge for meat. They are native to Africa and could grow up to 16.5 feet in length and 5.2 feet in height. Don’t mistake the herbivorous appetite of the hippopotamus for gentility; hippos are aggressive with a penchant for getting into scuffles.

Hippos have a fierce bite force of about 2,000 pounds per square inch (psi). Hippos can open their mouth at 180 degrees, with frightening canines that can grow as long as one 1 ft 8 in with incisors that get as long as 1 ft 4 in. Such an enormous bite force comes in handy in sourcing its food and helping the hippopotamus defend itself and space from invaders and predators.

In this guide, we will explore in entirety what is behind the power of the hippo bite as far as learning about the behavioral profile of the hippopotamus.

How Strong is a Hippo Bite?

A hippopotamus has one of the strongest bite forces in the mammalian kingdom. The hippo boasts a force of 2000 psi in its bite. To better demonstrate this, a hippopotamus can cut a hefty 10-foot crocodile in half in one bite.

This enormous bite force can be attributed not only to the hippo’s incisive tusks but also to its powerful jaws. Better put, the hippo’s jaws rank among the top 5% most powerful jaws among all known herbivores in existence.

The hippo can open its mouth as much as 180 degrees. This means that in one bite, the hippo could crush a well-matured watermelon in a bite like it was some small grapes.

How Many Teeth Hippo Have?

Just like humans, the hippopotamus has four teeth types. These are incisors, molars, canines, and premolars. A fully grown hippo can have anywhere from 38-42 teeth. The teeth are bigger in male hippos compared to females.

Of this number, 28 are molars and premolars typically stationed at the back and sides of its mouth. The premolars and molars take care of grinding duties, courtesy of their flat ridges. This is the same with human teeth.

The remaining teeth are canine tusks and incisors. These canines and incisors find application in cutting food and biting other animals either in self-defense or the hippo being an aggressor, charging at other animals. Specifically, among all land animals, hippos have the largest teeth.

Are Hippo Teeth Sharp?

The hippo’s teeth are sharp, encased in a mouth whose width is around 4 feet. Each jaw is outfitted with a big pair of incisors. At a quick glance, the lower canine teeth are readily visible.

In male hippos, the lower incisors – just like the lower canines – are elaborated. The canines can grow to a length of 50 cm, while the incisors can grow up to 40 cm. The hippo’s canines are plated with enamel. This ivory even beats that of the elephant in strength and requires more exertion to carve.

Thanks to their sharpness, the incisors and the canines don’t actively partake in feeding duties (like grinding and chewing) but are majorly deployed in fighting. The lower canines, especially, are deployed offensively.

Do Hippo Teeth Fall Out?

Constant breaking down of food would progressively wear the hippo’s molars down due to friction. Over time, as the hippo ages significantly, the molars lose a bulk of their vitality due to such sustained wear. Ultimately, such hippopotamus will starve to death.

Are Hippos Aggressive?

Given that hippos feed more on vegetation, people generally mistake hippos for gentle and amorous animals. This couldn’t be farther from reality.

Hippos are notably aggressive and are dangerous to interact with closely. Hippos are very territorial and are quick to classify any intruder as a threat, which it energetically attacks with its incisive tusks and large teeth.

When irritated, hippos can charge on land at 30km/hr. Frightening, isn’t it? More than this, hippos can venture into land searching for food and attack humans and animals they come across.

There have been many infamous cases of hippos charging at boats in water (and drowning its passengers), invading crops bordering water bodies, or hunting calves that stray into their territory.

In 2014, a hippo charged and attacked a school boat in NigerOpens in a new tab., causing it to capsize and kill 13 people – a teacher and 12 students.

Alarming statistics from BBC show that kill no less than 500 people in Africa annually, cementing its place among the world’s most dangerous land animals.

The aggression of hippos isn’t exclusively directed at other animals. Hippos are also hostile to themselves. Adult hippos have been known to kill younger hippos.

Aggression is more prevalent in male hippos, who start jaw-to-jaw sparring contests as early as 7 years when they are just adolescents. The hippo’s aggression hits a peak during the dry season.

In this period, there is amplified overcrowding (meaning more chances of hippos straying into rival territories) with equally increased breeding.

Due to their enormous size, hippos don’t boast the agility of more avid hunters like lions and tigers. Rather, they lock their teeth against each other when they fight among themselves, biting and pushing with their lower jaws, leveraging their strength and weight.

This is similar to the wrestling you see in deer when they lock antlers in fights.

Do hippos Sleep Underwater?

Generally, many mammals struggle to sleep (particularly a deep sleep) underwater. When they do, there is a high tendency that the mammal could start to drown and consequently choke.

Hippos share a unique mechanism with dolphins and whales that allows them to sleep with just half of their brain at a given time. This gives them a sort of semi-awareness that keeps them from drowning.

Characteristically, while the hippo is asleep underwater, it would occasionally bop up, takes a breath, and subsequently submerges again. All this is done automatically (by reflex) without the hippopotamus waking up. 

What more, the nostrils of the hippo can momentarily close when they are underwater. This enables a hippo to stay submerged, holding their breath for up to 5 minutes. 

Averagely, a hippopotamus stays submerged for 104 seconds. For a 2-month calf, they can’t stay underwater for more than 30 seconds.

Despite this capacity to sleep underwater, a hippocampus generally prefers sleeping underwater in areas where the water is shallower. Most times, when a hippo sleeps in such areas, it lies flat on its belly, not floating nor standing.

Can a Hippo Jump?

Compared to other megafauna, hippos have smaller legs. These reduced legs suffice for the hippo despite their enlarged sizes because the water (they are majorly domiciled in) causes their weight to drop significantly. They don’t frequent deep waters either.

On land, a hippo can gallop at speeds up to 19mph. But this is not common, as the generality of hippos trots.

That said, the hippo can’t jump. It lacks agility, as earlier said, but it can steadily ascend steep banks. 

The hippopotamus is not an avid swimmer nonetheless, even though it has webbed feet. When they move in water, they move in leaps (as typical of porpoise) from the bottom.

Do Hippos Nurse Their Young?

Hippos give exceptional nursing to their young ones. Female hippos mate just once annually. Consequently, a pregnant hippo can only give birth to one baby hippo at once. Therefore, this sole baby hippo can enjoy all the care of the mother.

The mother hippo withdraws from the pack to give birth. Typically, after 2 weeks of birth, the mother introduces the young hippo to her herd. Mother hippos tend to nurse their babies for a minimum of 8 months.

Thanks to this elongated span, the mother and the baby hippo build solid bonds. This strong bond is commonly demonstrated in the mother hippo and her baby cuddling together, mutually grooming themselves, or nuzzling. The baby hippo can suckle underwater too.

Such an emotionally consolidated relationship pushes the mother to wholeheartedly defend her calf from predators like crocodiles, hyenasOpens in a new tab., and even lions – often putting herself sacrificially in harm’s way to protect her young.

The hippo has a close-knit family, with the male leader of the herd aggressively defending the babies and the territory as a whole. Within the water, the mother plays a similar protective role in protecting the baby from aquatic predators like crocs.

Do Hippos Carry Their Babies in Their Mouth?

Hippos rarely carry their babies in their mouths. But there have been isolated casesOpens in a new tab. where a mother hippo carries its baby in the mouth, say to cross a river. 

What Animals Do Hippos Get Along with?

Outside its clan, the hippo doesn’t commune with a lot of animals. Being territorially aggressive, it is highly unlikely for the hippo to build a congenial or even symbiotic relationship with other animals.

But within its clan, the hippo is a pretty social animal, preferring to live in herds. A herd can contain anywhere from 10-30 hippos. There have been cases where herds were as large as 200 hippos.

The herd is randomly composed of adult male and female hippos. Nonetheless, the whole pack must submit to the sole authority of one dominant male.

This pack leader reserves the privilege to mate with just any adult female hippo in its pack. The other males are subordinates to it. The dominant male marks its pack’s territory by flinging its dung into the farthest distances possible, leveraging its tail shaped like a fan.

Are Hippos Monogamous?

As you can readily infer from the sexual character of the said dominant male hippo, hippos are polygamous in nature and commonly have multiple sexual partners.

To attract a female hippo, a male would fling its dung far and make distinct vocalizations. Commonly, hippos mate in water. In the course of the exercise, the female hippopotamus is only partially submerged.

Do Hippos Give Birth Underwater?

Hippos can give birth in either water or land, depending on the prevailing circumstances. When a baby hippo is born in water, the mother will propel it up to the water surface to breathe properly. 

This is crucial as a baby hippo can’t hold its breath for more than 40 seconds at a given time. Upon delivery, the mother remains in the water with her baby for days, as she patiently awaits the baby to gain strength before exiting the water, possibly to graze.

Within this waiting span, she may not eat for days. The mother hippo can nurse its baby underwater for even 32 weeks at a stretch.

What Do You Call a Baby Hippo?

Baby hippos are called calves. Newborn hippos don’t weigh more than 14lbs.

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