What does a hippo sound like? Hippo sounds explained

Hippo with a very funny facial expression

Welcome to Africa Freak’s animal concert, where you can hear and learn about different safari sounds. So get ready to experience the wildest animal noises from the African bush!

Today’s sound of the wild is that of the hippopotamus – and there’s more to it than you might think. There’s a whole hidden dimension to hippopotamus sounds, quite literally below the surface – but more on this later.

First, let’s answer the simple question: what sound does a hippo make?

You’ll find audio clips and a video below.

What Does a Hippo Sound Like?

Pod of hippos in water, southern Africa

A hippo sounds like … well … a hippo, and not much else.

Though some compare their ‘honking’ to the sound of deep laughter. And as you’ll discover shortly, some of their noises are somewhat similar to dolphin sounds!

Their vocalizations are pretty unique, and they make a large variety of noises.

Hippos grunt, groan, growl, roar and make loud wheezing sounds.

They also make chuffing noises.

But words can only be so descriptive. So you’re best off hearing these noises for yourself. To answer your question, here are some hippo noises, recorded in the heart of the African bush.

Enjoy the hippo show below!


Hippo Sounds Caught on Video

For some visual context, here’s a video of a hippo in its natural habitat, grunting happily for the camera.

It sounds particularly special in this clip, mixed in with the other wonderful sounds of wild Africa.

This incredible hippo ‘concerto’ was recorded in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa.

The Amphibious Nature of Hippo Sounds

Terrapin enjoying the sun on top of a hippo's back

So far, so standard. But hippos have a trick up their noise-making sleeves.

They’re semi-aquatic animals, meaning they spend their lives both on land and in water.

Hippos walk along the bottom of the riverbed to get around (contrary to popular belief, a hippo can’t swim).

And when they’re relaxing, they spend most of their time semi-submerged in the shallow waters.

This unique lifestyle means that about 80% of hippo communication takes place below the water’s surface.

Which raises the question; what noise does a hippo make underwater?

These underwater sounds are actually not dissimilar to those made by dolphins, who, believe it or not, are a distant relative of hippos.

But, to take things one step further, hippos can actually communicate above the water and below the water’s surface at the same time.

The noises above the surface come out from their nostrils. While the underwater sounds resonate through their jawbones and chubby necks.

They also use their jaws to listen to these sub-surface chatterings, as their ears remain in the air above. Their jaws connect to their middle ear, allowing the vibrations to bypass their outer ear entirely!

How’s that for a party trick?

Other Interesting Information About Hippo Sounds

A very large hippo rises above the water to take a look at what's going on

Hippopotamus conversations can carry over very long distances, traveling from one pod to the next in a chain.

Their honks, groans, and roars asserting dominance and claiming territory, among other things.

This epic symphony of sounds can be incredibly loud, as the large groups of hippos all honk in unison.

It can reach loudness levels of up to 115 decibels (about as loud as a full-blown rock concert) and you can hear it from about a mile away.

While some hippo sounds might be thunderously loud, others are inaudible to humans.

Parts of their communication take place at very low frequencies, in what’s known as infrasound.

These sounds are so deep, that they fall below the range of human hearing.

So there’s more to hippo noises than meets the ear!

Fun fact: Yes, hippos even share a collective noun with dolphins (pod) – but a group of hippos is also (happily) sometimes called a bloat.

More Hippopotamus Sound Effects

If the first hippo noise audio clip wasn’t enough, here are a few more. So you can get a feel for the variety of their sounds.

  • Hippo Sound 1 (right click and save to download this hippo sound effect for free; in mp3 format)
  • Hippo Sound 2


  • Hippo Sound 3


What Do Hippos Sound Like – A Final Hippo Honk

Hippos grunt, groan, growl, roar and make loud wheezing sounds

So, there you have it – The sound of a hippopotamus is more interesting than you may have assumed!

There are plenty of hippo facts out there. From their deceptively fast running speed to their surprisingly dangerous nature.

But their wonderfully complex vocalizations might just be the most interesting thing about them.

Their booming chatter is a common sound in the African bush, and one that many consider music to the ears.

For more animal noises, take a listen to some other installments of Africa’s wildest sounds:

If you want to hear Africa’s animal orchestra at work in person, with hippos in tow, you’ll love the experience of a tailor-made African safari.

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