How fast can a hippo run? Top running speed on land & in water

Are you wondering ‘how fast can a hippo run’? While hippos may appear to be fat and slow, they can run at 30 km/h on land (19 mph).

So despite being the third-largest land mammal on earth, hippos can probably run faster than you. They are very territorial animals and charge at anyone who stands between them and the water.

In fact, hippos kill more people than any other African mammal. While the human mortality rate from hippo attacks is unknown, it is estimated to range from 500 to 3000 every year.

These moody animals aren’t like the preconceptions of happy hippos. And their roly-poly frames come with an incredible set of sharp teeth.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the remarkable hippopotamus running speed.

How Fast Are Hippos on Land?

Large hippopotamus on land

How fast can a hippo run on land? Hippos only accelerate to 30 km/h on flat ground. Their gait is like a gallop, although they don’t lift all four feet off the ground at once.

A hippo can reach top speed in just a couple of seconds. Usually, they catch other animals and people by surprise. As hippos are one of the most aggressive animals, getting caught by one would certainly be unpleasant.

Additionally, male hippos can weigh up to four tons (4000 kg). That’s a lot of weight, but they move it quickly.

How Fast Can Hippos Run Underwater?

Partly emerged hippo charging towards the boat

Are you wondering ‘how fast can a hippo swim’? Surprisingly, hippos can’t actually swim.

Although they are semi-aquatic animals and have webbed feet, hippos are too heavy for swimming.

Instead, these river horses walk underwater.

How fast can a hippo run underwater? A hippo can walk at 8 km/h underwater (5 mph).

A hippo holds its breath for a limited amount of time in the water. So, every few minutes, it surfaces in order to breathe. Then the hippo sinks and walks some more.

It’s even more amazing to learn that hippos can’t even float.

While you can find hippos running underwater, these nocturnal animals spend most of their time standing or laying down where the water is shallow. This way, they escape the sun and stay cool.

The water-loving animals also have a built-in reflex that allows them to sleep in the water. They bob up, reach the surface to breathe, and gently sink back down without waking up.

Fun fact: hippos secrete an oily red substance, known as “blood sweat” or “red sweat,” which acts as a natural sunscreen and an antimicrobial agent.

The rusty hue and protection are due to two pigments: hipposudoric acid and norhipposudoric acid.

Why Are Hippos So Deadly?

Emerged hippo with mouth wide open, with lone elephant in the background

Hippos are cantankerous animals. They like things their way. And if anyone or anything disrupts this, the hippo will get them out of the way.

They can open their mouth at a 180-degree angle and literally snap a person in half. This ferocious bite is a good defense and ensures that even baby hippos aren’t on the dinner menu for big cats.

Although hippos’ teeth are deadly, they don’t usually need to bite.

When 4000 kg runs at 30 km/h, there’s not much you can do.

Hippos make sounds like honks, roars, and groans to claim their territory and assert dominance. Not only do hippos defend their territory, but they can also be very aggressive in doing so.

They chase other animals and people away, then maul and bite to ensure they don’t return. So if you see a hippo running, it’s best to get out of the way.

Hippo Top Speed

Lioness running after a large hippo on land

Are you wondering ‘how long can a hippo run at top speed’? Well, hippos don’t have amazing stamina. They can only run at 30 km/h for around half a minute, maybe less.

Furthermore, these giants can’t jump. Hills and slopes really slow them down.

The best way to get away from a hippo is to run uphill, away from the water. Even then – good luck!

Why is a Hippo Running on Land?

Hippo running through shallow water at full speed

Many predators rarely attack adult hippos due to their impressive strength and size. That said, you may be curious as to why these mighty mammals would be running at top speed in the wild.

A hippo’s land speed increases to chase away, scare, or attack predators.

While hippos love splashing around in the water, feeding is a common reason for these river horses walking on land. Their diet mainly consists of short grass, leaves, bark, and various fruits.

A hippo has a large appetite and spends around five to six hours on land grazing each night.

Human vs Hippo Speed on Land

How fast does a hippo run on land compared to humans? Hippos run at 30 km/h, whereas humans have an average speed of around 10 to 13 km/h.

Many athletes have a sprinting speed of around 24 km/h. Still, they are unlikely to beat a hippo in a race.

How Fast is a Hippo’s Running Speed vs Other African Animals?

Hippo running in cloud of dust, with curious zebras watching in the background

Hippos are just one part of the wild African “marathon”.

There’s always another race to enjoy when you’re on an African safari, whether it’s elephants blowing their trumpets at Cape buffalo or cheetah chasing down Thomson’s gazelle.

A hippo’s speed in water is slower than a crocodile, and it is no match for a cheetah on land. However, the hippo’s max speed is still quite astounding.

The hippopotamus is one of the fastest animals in Africa, particularly amongst animals of a similar size.

How fast do hippos run compared to other animals in the wild? For more information, check out some of the other interesting animal speeds.

Admire the Hippopotamus Speed on a Safari

Hippo pod in the Luangwa river, with group of youngsters standing on a sandy bank

Hippos are powerful creatures that enjoy spending their day at rivers and lakes, wallowing in the shallow waters.

With their fast running speed, strength, aggression, and size, it’s easy to see why not many animals target hippos in the wild.

There are many interesting things to learn about hippos, and observing these magnificent mammals in their natural habitat is one of the best ways to do so.

So book a safari in Africa to marvel at the mighty hippo and other incredible wildlife species.

If you’re lucky, you might even spot hippos enjoying a bit of night-time grazing. But be sure to keep a safe distance – you wouldn’t want them running after you.

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