Hippo Speed Explained: How Are Hippos So Fast If They're So Heavy?

Ritwik Bhuyan
Feb 25, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
The common hippopotamus.

A hippo is a huge semi-aquatic, herbivorous mammal that is native to sub-Saharan Africa.

Hippopotamuses appear to be fat and slow and are the third-largest land animals on the planet. This does not stop them from running faster than you as the animals are known to run at a speed of around 19 mph (30.6 kph) on land.

Hippos are very territorial and are capable of killing more humans than any other African animal. Hippos will charge at anything that comes between them and the destination, which is always water. When you see a hippo in pictures and animations, the animal is portrayed as cute and friendly.

But the reality is quite different as hippos kill around 500-3000 people every year. Hippos have a mammoth body and have a large mouth with very sharp teeth. These teeth of hippos are vicious and hurt anyone in an instant.

Hippos are very quick and can run at a speed of around 19 mph (30.6 kph). The running gait of the animals is like a gallop, however, they do not lift their legs all at once.

Hippos are also very heavy with male hippos that weigh around 8818.5 lb (4000 kg).

Despite the heavy weight that the animals come with, hippopotamuses can run pretty quick and accelerate within seconds taking humans by surprise if the animal is charging towards them.

It just takes a hippo couple of seconds to cover short distances. You might think that the chubby wild friend cannot catch you if you run, but you will be mistaken as a hippo will easily catch up to you.

You might have noticed that the primary habitat for a hippo is always rivers and lakes. But did you know hippos cannot actually swim? Yes, hippos do not swim, but actually, walk underwater.

The walking speed for a hippo under the water is 5 mph (8 kph). Hippos, however, cannot breathe underwater and will come to the surface to breathe every few minutes. Hippos don't even float and stay inside the water to save themselves from the sun.

Hippos always like to dictate life around them and if anything changes in nature, they are going to be angry regarding that. The teeth and mouth are strong enough to bite humans and slice them into two. Even if calves, the bite is as ferocious as adults.

If you enjoy this article, why not also read about how long can hippos hold their breath and can hippos swim here on Kidadl?

Who is faster, human or hippo?

A hippo from Africa is always faster than a human, although the mammal does not look the athletic type.

Hippos look fat and sluggish, but they actually can run faster than a human. They run faster and are more dangerous in the water.

Hippos are known to have a speed of 19 mph (30.6 kph) on land, which is much greater than what humans can achieve. Above this, hippos are very aggressive when it comes to their calves or territory.

As the hippos spend almost 16 hours a day in the water, so they know how to navigate the waters to better suit their abilities.

How long can a hippo run at top speed?

Although hippos can call upon their inner speed of 19 mph (30.6 kph), they are not known to do it for a longer period of time.

At the top of their speed, hippos can only last for half a minute or so. It might be even less.

Although a hippopotamus may seem slow due to its huge size, it actually is much faster on land and in its water habitat than it seems. A hippo won't be able to jump either and walking uphill and on slopes slow the animal down.

If you want to save yourself from a dangerous situation, try to run uphill if you are being chased by a hippo.

How fast can a hippo 'run' underwater?

A hippopotamus cannot actually swim and uses its legs to walk beneath the water bodies. They walk in the river, rather than swimming.

The African hippopotamus instead of swimming prefers walking in the river. The wild animals from Africa have a speed of 5 mph (8 kph) while walking underwater.

Every few minutes, the hippo will come to the surface to breathe and then again submerge and keep on walking. Wild hippo species love to stay underwater but are not able to float as they weigh a lot.

The buoyancy of water in the rivers does not let the hippo float. The hippopotamus spends the day time inside the water to cool themselves and escape the sun.

It will seem like the hippo is floating, but it is not. Even when the mammal feels threatened, it will head for water even though the hippo is actually aggressive in life.

You can even see a hippo in a zoo enjoying life submerged in the water provided in the enclosure. The grass is provided near the water body for grazing. Head to the enclosure to witness this magnificent hippopotamus.

How fast can a hippo run on land?

A hippo can run at a speed of 19 mph (30.6 kph), much faster than humans can ever run.

Hippopotamuses are fast, although they are bigger in size. They are territorial and may charge if you encroach on their territory.

An average hippo can run faster than man and that shows how dangerous it can be if they decide you are the threat. Hippopotamuses like things their way, and if anyone or anything tries to get in between, they will neutralize the threat.

A hippopotamus can also open their mouth almost 180 degrees and will bite at the threat so hard that it can tear the prey in half.

The hippopotamus will run with all its might behind the threat and bite so that it never returns. Food is ample for them, and as hippopotamus is herbivorous, there is no need to eat humans.

Are you wondering how are hippos so fast despite their weight? Male hippos weigh around 8818.5 lb (4000 kg) and to top it off, they will run with all their might towards you.

Hippos are very lean and muscular animals.

The larger bones and greater weight make them a little inconvenient to run, but the speed and strength on the short legs of the hippos make them the ideal candidate for a race. Hippos can easily run at high speed, but for shorter durations and despite the weight, the build of the animal makes them run quicker.

How fast can other African animals run?

Africa is a heaven for animals and you will find many different species of animals running about in the African jungles.

Hippos are just one part of the kingdom in Africa. You can easily notice cheetahs chasing their prey, or giraffes running about in the open woodlands.

The wildebeest, also known as gnu, is known to run at a speed of 50 mph (80.5 kph). This animal is able to outrun most of the dangerous carnivores in the jungle as gnu is prey to lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and many more.

Cheetahs can run at a speed of up to 80.8 mph (130 kph). African wildlife is full of danger and navigating with caution is very important in the region, otherwise, you will just be food for them.

Conserving Hippos

Hippos have very few natural predators but the main conservation of the species is needed from humans.

Humans shoot hundreds of hippos each year to stop human-animal conflict, but it is just killing without mercy. Although the animal does not have natural predators, it is still considered Vulnerable by IUCN Red List. Habitat loss and poaching have reduced the population of the species quite a bit.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for hippo speed, then why not take a look at are hippos omnivores or hippo facts.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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