Hippopotamus vs Rhinoceros: Who’s Winning?

by Jon D. B.

Alongside elephants, hippos and rhinos make up the three largest groups of mammals living on the planet today. Neither tend to test their luck with the titanic elephants, but what happens when Africa’s 2nd and 3rd-placing heavyweights clash? It’s Hippopotamus vs Rhinoceros on this week’s Who’s Winning?.

No matter how you spin it, the hippopotamus will always rank amongst the world’s most deadly animals. These enormous “water horses” can show unmatched aggression, using their immense size and gigantic tusks/canines to take down foes. Extensive research over the last decade also shows that hippos hunt down and eat a whole lot more meat than previously thought. Does a rhino stand a chance against these aggressive omnivores? Let’s take a look.

The Combatants: Hippopotamus vs Rhinoceros

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Max Length: 16 feetMax Length: 13 feet
Max Weight: 9,000 poundsMax Weight: 5,000 pounds
Attributes: Gargantuan size, 1-foot-long tusks & sharp canines, enormous maw, aquatic masteryAttributes: Immense size, armor-like hide, 2-foot-long horn, tremendous galloping & charging ability

Looking at their stats, the hippo can have a size advantage over the largest rhino species, Africa’s endangered White Rhinoceros. But the will weigh about the same as a rhino (the odd 9,000-pounder being the exception, not the rule).

However, the rhino boasts two distinct advantages over any hippopotamus: their armor-like hide and that 2-foot-long horn. Hippos can dispatch of crocodiles and incredible foes with little effort. But a rhinoceros would be a whole other story. As impressive as hippo tusks and canines are, a rhino’s hide would prove near-impenetrable for them.

Once the hippo angers the rhino by chomping at its hide and flashing it’s gaping maw, the rhino will most certainly bring out it’s finishing move: the charge. All rhinoceros species are respected and feared for their unmatched charge. Bull (male) rhinos are notorious for running head-on into threats to their territory, and can do so at 30-miles-per-hour. Put this tactic up against even the largest of hippopotamus, and the aquatic giant won’t stand a chance.

The Verdict: Rhinoceros Claims Victory Via Finishing Charge

Once the rhino sends its 5,000-pounds of armored muscle hurling towards a hippo, that 2-foot to 3-foot horn comes into play. Bulls will lower their horn towards the end of a charge to place it underneath their opponent. Once placed, their immense neck and shoulder musculature propels their foe upward with their horn, which either sends the foe flying, completely gores them, or both.

It’s a rare encounter, but one that does happen as this footage from Mala Mala Game Reserve’s Head Ranger, Mike Kirkman, shows. “I have never seen anything like this before or since,” he says of the unreal footage, which demonstrates the rhino’s charge on a hippopotamus:

Watch as two of Africa’s biggest and heaviest animals go head to head in a very rarely seen sighting. The hippo is trying his luck with the rhinos, but the rhinos have none of it.

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“It’s not normal to see an interaction like this between any animal – never mind the 2nd and 3rd largest species! As always, when nature throws a curveball like this, as a guide – it is very difficult to explain,” Kirkman adds of the wind encounter.

But in the end, it shows just how little a chance the hippo stands against the superiorly-outfitted rhinoceros. What other matchups would you like to see courtesy of our wildlife expert? Hit up Outsider on Facebook to let us know, and be sure to check out our other VS entries: