Crocodiles generally avoid confrontations with hippopotamuses because they are much larger and more aggressive than crocodiles. Additionally, hippopotamuses live in groups, which makes it difficult for crocodiles to hunt them. Crocodiles typically hunt smaller, easier prey such as fish, birds, and mammals.

Hippopotamus vs crocodile

The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), simply known as the hippo, is a large (very large!), strong, and aggressive mammal. They are among the largest living land mammals, being only smaller than elephants and some rhinoceroses.

Adult hippos average 1,500 kg (3,310 lb) and 1,300 kg (2,870 lb) for males and females respectively. Very large males can reach 2,000 kg (4,410 lb) and exceptional males weighing 2,660 kg (5,860 lb) and 3,200 kg (7,050 lb) have been reported. Despite its stocky shape and short legs, an adult healthy hippopotamus is capable of running 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances.

They have exceptionally big and strong jaws, and large, very sharp teeth. The bite force of an adult female has been measured as 8,100 newtons (1,800 lbf). For comparison, the mighty lions have an average bite force of 1,314.7 newtons. Note that it was a female, male hippos are much more powerful, but they are too aggressive to be tested! Hippos have been recorded to break full-grown crocodiles’ backs with a single bite.

Why crocodiles do not hunt hippopotamuses - a hippopotamus, mouth open
The hippopotamus is among the most dangerous animals in the world as it is highly aggressive and unpredictable. Look at these powerful jaws and huge teeth! Attacking an adult hippopotamus would be unwise even for a large crocodile. Photo source: “Hippopotamus in water, mouth open, close up” on Deposit Photos

The skin of a hippo is very thick (around 5 cm or 2 inches) and strong.

Furthermore, hippos are living in groups of up to thirty animals. A group is called a pod, herd, dale, or bloat.

So, crocodiles leave hippos alone. They don’t dare to attack them. They occasionally eat baby hippos, though – but usually, if something’s wrong with the baby (sick, left alone, about to die, etc). Crocodiles know even attacking a baby hippopotamus would bring on the wrath of the adults near it.

Additionally, hippos are notoriously ill-tempered. If something above a certain size gets in their territory (unless it’s an elephant), they perceive it as a threat and attack. So, the intruder either runs for their life or will most likely die. There have been cases of hippos attacking crocodiles simply because they got closer than the hippo was comfortable with. That’s why crocodiles instinctively stay away from hippopotamuses.

In summary, a fully grown hippo is just plain too big and too powerful for a single crocodile to even think of attacking. Crocodiles only feed on hippos that are already dead.

Hippopotamus biting a crocodile.
Hippopotamus biting a crocodile: if you get too close to a hippo, this happens.


M. Özgür Nevres

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