Are Hippos Omnivores? Explore Why They Like To Eat Both Meat And Grass

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 19, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
hippo with a wide open mouth displaying dominance
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.3 Min

The hippopotamus is the third-largest land animal and mammal behind mammals like elephants and rhinoceros, and the biggest surviving artiodactyl in history.

Although their outward apparent connection to pigs and other land even-toed ungulates, the Hippopotamidae populations nearest extant ancestors are related to cetaceans such as whales and dolphins.

They split some 55 million years ago. Hippos are distinguished by their cylinder upper bodies, broad jaws showing huge canine teeth, virtually hairless skin, columnar limbs, and large stature; males reach 3307 lb (1,500 kg) and females ordinarily reach 2866 lb (1,300 kg) in weight. Although they have a stocky build and small limbs, hippopotamuses can run at speeds of around 18.7 mph (30 kph) across short ranges. The hippopotamus, often known as the hippo, common hippopotamus, or river hippopotamus, is a huge semi-aquatic animal and ungulate belonging to Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is one of just two surviving varieties in the Hippopotamidae group, one of which is the pygmy hippopotamus. Hippos live in waterways, lagoons, and mangrove forests, wherein dominant males rule over stretches of water and clusters of five to thirty females and younger hippos. They keep cool during the day by remaining in the waters or muck; breeding and birthing both take place in water.

These wild animals come out to forage on grasslands at sunset. Although hippos socialize in the river, eating is a solitary experience, and hippos are not possessive on the ground. Because of its violent and aggressive character, the hippo is one of the most deadly creatures on the planet. Illegal hunting for their flesh and ivory canine teeth, as well as habitat destruction, pose a threat to them. The hippopotamus is the main species of the Hippopotamidae group. The pygmy hippopotamus is classified as either Choeropsis or Hexaprotodon in the Hippopotamidae family. Hippopotamidae are also referred to as hippopotamids.

After reading about if hippos eat meat, do check why not take a look at when do hummingbirds come out and are hippos carnivores? 

Why are hippos omnivore?

Hippos are massive beasts with scary teeth and violent nature, although they eat mostly vegetation. They do assault humans and can get into fights with crocodiles, but they do not kill and are not killers or carnivorous.

Hippos have been seen to be omnivorous and eating meat by observation notwithstanding their vegetation diets and all of the characteristics that make them outstanding ruminants. Researchers and amateur watchers have reported hippos fighting, murdering, and consuming other species, taking kills from carnivores, and collecting remains, including those of fellow hippos. There is a trend of predatory behavior in hippo groups throughout the animal's habitat, and this behavior has repercussions for hippos.

Hippos are generally mainly nocturnal, which implies that their feed, whether meat or not, frequently goes unnoticed by humans. Their predatory habits have just gone unnoticed. They could also clarify why hippos are so vulnerable to anthrax and have greater mortality rates during epidemics, according to scientists and scientific discovery. Hippos, they believe, are twice as vulnerable to the disease since, like other herbivores, they swallow and breathe bacterial spores on vegetation and in the ground, and they also absorb them when feasting on contaminated corpses. Cannibalism habits during epidemics aggravate the situation.

Will a hippo eat a human?

Hippos, the world's second-largest terrestrial animal, may seem peaceful at first glance, but they are capable of becoming lethal. They can sprint at speeds of up to 20 mph (32 kph) despite weighing up to 8000 lb (3628.7 kg).

Their mouths can expand to 180 degrees, exert pressure with ten times the power of human mouths, and their bottom teeth can expand to be more than a foot long. They can also retain their breath and stay under the water for up to five minutes, making them difficult to notice. Hippos murder an estimated 500 civilians each year in Africa, ranking them the planet's scariest mammal behind humans and almost double as lethal as lions. Hippopotamuses are herbivores that rarely cause problems for other species.

Males, on the other hand, can become violent if they perceive a threat. Female mothers may strike in order to protect their children. And almost all hippos grow agitated whenever something or someone—comes among them and the river in which they dwell that the hippo is the planet's most lethal land animal hunter according to estimates. These ferocious creatures with powerful jaws kills 500 people in Africa each year. Hippos, having weights varying between 3,000-9,000 lb (1360.7-4082.3 kg), can easily squash a person to death.

Hippopotamus (Hippos) in Liwonde N.P.

Do hippos eat carcasses of animals?

Hippos, as with most herbivores, can graze a range of plants if given the opportunity, but in the wild, their diet includes nearly completely of grass and grassland, with the only minor intake of water plants.

Hippos are developed with clean stomachs and must consume plants using bacteria received from their mothers' waste. Hippos have been recorded consuming carcasses on occasions, typically close to water. There have also been accounts of meat-eating, as well as cannibalism and hunting. A hippo's gastrointestinal structure is not adapted to carnivory, and animal flesh is most likely the result of abnormal behavior or dietary distress.

How many kilograms of grass do hippos eat?

The Hippo's primary dietary supply is low grasses. Each nightfall, they graze for five or even more hours. Throughout that period, they can travel up to five miles.

Hippos have a well-balanced, largely herbivorous diet. Grown-ups consume approximately 77 lb (35 kg) of grass per night, traveling up to 6 mi (9.6 km) in an evening to do so. A single hippo can eat up to 150 lb (68 kg) of grass and food each day, or over 155 lb (70.3 kg) per day. Eating occurs after the sun sets for the Hippo, as they spend the majority of the day in the water and keep cool. However, when darkness falls, they migrate to shore to look for food. Although they are frequently available, they very rarely devour any form of plant present in the water.

Researchers are baffled as to why they aren't consumed. They might, though, if food and nourishment on land become limited. When they rise from the water, they are mostly asleep for the majority of the daytime hours. When they can't acquire enough green plants, they're known to eat organisms and carcasses. On the ground, hippos can easily become thirsty. Even if they only appear after sunset, the weather in Africa can be exceedingly hot.

Hippos suffer numerous threats in the uncertain wild environment of Africa, including illness and famine. A fully developed adult does not have many large predators. Hippos have been prey to lions, but it is based on the number of lions, the maturity of the hippo, and how distant it is from the river. However, simply attaining maturity is difficult. While born and raised, crocodiles, lions, hyenas, and leopards, and other carnivores are all possible threats—but the most terrifying thing to a baby hippo is just another hippo.

Disputes are unavoidable if one lives in a community of up to 100 people. Baby hippos are sometimes stuck in the crossfire of fierce confrontations among adults and get wounded or even crushed. The normal life expectancy of a hippo is usually 36-50 years. However, there have been cases where the hippos have exceeded 50 years of age while in captivity such as zoos or wildlife sanctuaries.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are hippos omnivores then why not take a look at when do hummingbirds come out, or can guinea pigs eat bread.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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