How Fast Can A Hippo Swim? Can Hippos Swim In Deep Water?

Chong Lhungdim
Aug 31, 2023 By Chong Lhungdim
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
Hippopotamus swimming in water

Are you aware of a hippo's swimming speed?

Hippopotamuses are big animals, mostly found in Sub-Saharan Africa because rivers and lakes are their main habitat. They live around 40-50 years and weigh around 1.5-4 ton (1360.78-4000 kg). They are territorial and semi-aquatic animals.

Hippos are herbivores and cannot swim in water but they can slowly walk in water. Hippos can walk at a speed of 4.97 mph (8 kph) underwater as they have no gills for breathing.

Despite this, they can stay underwater for at least five minutes and return to the water surface for breathing.

A hippopotamus defends its territory and this animal can be very aggressive in order to save itself as well as the females and males of the group. Hippos are the third-largest land animals after elephants and rhinos.

As rivers and lakes are their main habitat, they spend about 16 hours a day submerged in rivers. They have derived their name from the Greek word for 'river horse'.

It is said that they are most active at night and can be seen near river areas.

Therefore, avoid going places like near rivers at night time. Despite the fact that hippos are not able to swim underwater, they have dense leg bones which helps hippos to stay underwater.

The hippopotamus is an African mammal that is semi-aquatic but because of their heavy weight, this animal is not able to swim in the water.

However, they can walk underwater at a speed of 5 mph (8 kph) and can hold their breath for about three to five minutes in water.

A sleeping hippo automatically rises to the surface of the water for breathing as it can hold its breath while sleeping in water, also for three to five minutes but needs air to survive.

For more similar contents, you can also check out hippo facts and how fast can a hippo run.

How fast can a hippo swim underwater?

Hippos cannot swim very quick underwater but still, they can swim at a speed of 5 mph (8 kph) and also walk underwater. They can run on flat ground at a speed of 18.6 mph (30 kph).

Hippopotamuses do not have natural gills and their weight is around 3300 lb (1500 kg). Because of these, they are not able to swim underwater.

It is a fact known by national geographies that hippos are amphibious. They are semi-aquatic animals which means that they are capable of living underwater as well as on land.

Therefore, they are not able to live in the water all the time despite having rivers and lakes as their main habitat.

Hippos are able to float on the water. When they are sleeping, they float on cool water to breathe, and they are also able to hear and make sure that they do not have a human intruder or predator close when lying on the water surface.

They have ears situated on the top of the head and they listen while submerged half underwater.

Hippos are known to be very dangerous and aggressive in nature towards humans. Because of their heavy weight, they find it difficult swimming underwater and therefore sometimes they prefer walking underwater at a s speed of 4.97 mph (8 kph).

There is a way that hippos can stay in the water.

They hold their body weight at gravitational force and lift their legs which continue to sink, and then they come to the surface of the water for breathing and that is how they survive underwater. They cannot outswim humans, but they are faster on land.

There are two countries that have the largest population of hippopotamuses. These are Zambia and Tanzania and the reservoirs in these countries are considered part of hippo life as they are semi-aquatic mammals and spend half of their time underwater.

They spend around 16 hours a day underwater and only come to land or to the surface of the water when in search of food. They mainly feeds on grass. They are known to be herbivorous animals.

A hippo has adapted to living in water environments and this is where they can be found, swimming at an average speed of 4.97 mph (8 kph).

Their walking is the same speed or sometimes even at a slower pace. An adult hippo is capable of holding its breath for around 30 minutes underwater and is seen coming to the water surface after an interval of 20-25 minutes while sleeping.

Hippos remain in contact with the water even if at the surface of water through their feet and as this animal can also weigh up to 22046.23 lb (10,000 kg), they can still manage to stay in the water.

How fast can a baby hippo swim?

The swimming condition of a baby hippo is the same as an adult. They are semi-aquatic mammals and can walk or swim in water at an average speed of 3.11-4.35 mph (5-7 kph) in wildlife.

They get tired while being in water and move to land and release a red substance which people refer to as sweat blood.

Hippopotamuses are mostly active at night because during the day time, they prefer being in the water, rather than on the ground. They move to land at night, and they can travel up to 6 mi (9.66 km) in search of their next meal and can consume around 80 lb (36.28 kg) of grass in the wildlife.

There are paths made by these hippos that they use in search of food and do not have any scope for turning around but when they feel threatened by any human or any other species, they immediately run towards the water for protection.

It is a serious warning for humans to stay away from hippopotamuses, especially if you come close to one either in the day time or night time.

As a baby hippo has a lower weight and height compared to a grown hippo, there is a chance that it might sink in water but it still manages to remain on the surface. It is very easy for hippos to remain underwater for most of their life due to their dense bones.

They could even sleep underwater.

However, in the case of osteosclerosis skeletons, bone which is light weight, hippos would sink in water as it requires a lot of energy to float in water and for hippos, it is quite difficult because of their body weight.

Having a heavy bodies may result in the hippo walking on land with three legs, not making use of the fourth one.

Do hippos swim all the time?

Hippos do not get tired easily after remaining half of the time in water and the rest of the time on the ground in search of food. Not much sweat is released from their body.

They are mostly found in Africa where the sun rays hit directly and to protect them from that bright scorching sun, they remain underwater to keep themselves cool during the day. Hippos do not exactly swim but float and walk underwater.

Once they are in the water, they try to reach the bottom of the surface in deep shallow water to keep themselves cool. At an extreme level, they can hold their breath for several minutes and then return to the surface for breathing.

Swimming is not a priority, but walking and floating is.

Hippos are as large as elephants and rhinos and are the third-largest animals after them. Hippos are chased by poachers because some hippo parts are popular in the market as their teeth act as an alternative for elephant ivory.

They are very agile in person and if you ever see them face to face, you should not make sudden movements. There are warnings in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries that you should try to remain away from these large animals as they can cause harm to you.

The bone of hippo is dense and because of their buoyant weight, they may float on water.

This means swimming is not their thing, but they can walk easily in water at an average speed.

After walking so much in water, they release a red liquid which is kind of oily and people refer to it as blood sweat, which is clearly a myth. Floating is a faster means of traveling in water for a hippo.

How do hippos swim so fast underwater?

A hippo has light bone and a buoyant body and this animal has a weight of around 3300 lb (1500 kg) which is different in males and females. In females, the weight is around 2900-3300 lb (1315-1497 kg) and a baby hippo will be more or less than this.

However, all of them manage to remain underwater for a long time. Hippos use their legs to propel themselves forward as they use their legs for grip.

This means they can reach a moderate pace when they travel through water. Floating is easier for them compared to swimming.

Hippopotamuses generally walk underwater as they cannot swim easily because of their heavy body weight. However, they manage to maintain a speed thanks to their feet.

They use their feet to propel themselves and keep moving as they also have high bone density.

This is the best way to keep walking, swimming, or floating in water. It is a benefit that they can hold their breath for a few minutes and adult hippos can hold their breath for at least 30 minutes in water and come to the surface to breathe even if sleeping.

A baby hippo when born weighs up to 55-100 lb (23-45.35 kg) and has to remain in a reservoir and breathe at first because the female hippo gives birth to them under a reservoir. They can also walk in dense water and they find shallow water.

Therefore, it is proved that they cannot sink in water and their special buoyancy is one of the reasons for this.

Hippos are also capable of seeing clearly underwater as they have clear membrane that acts as goggles and they are able to go deep inside the water to great depths. They control their movements in water and can rescue them from sinking, even in deep shallow water.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for How fast can a hippo swim? Can hippos swim in deep water?

Then why not take a look at How is balsamic vinegar made? Know food facts about vinegar production, or Explore how stuff works: How is plywood made? Wood ply facts to know!

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Chong Lhungdim

Bachelor's degree specializing in Economics, Master's degree specializing in Public Policy

Chong Lhungdim picture

Chong LhungdimBachelor's degree specializing in Economics, Master's degree specializing in Public Policy

With extensive knowledge in economics, public policy, and finance, Chong is a highly qualified professional with a Bachelor's degree in Economics St Andrew's College of Arts, Science and Commerce and a Postgraduate degree in Public Policy from the University of Mumbai. Her enthusiasm for research and content writing has led her to develop expertise in various fields of economic and public policy analysis. Chong has experience in research, data analysis, and producing high-quality content.

Read full bio >
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali Rawat picture

Sonali RawatBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali has a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and is currently pursuing a Master's in English and Communication from Christ University. With considerable experience in writing about lifestyle topics, including travel and health, she has a passion for Japanese culture, especially fashion, and anime, and has written on the subject before. Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival and coordinated a student magazine at her university. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

Read full bio >