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Do Hippos Eat Their Young? Is it Real or Fiction?

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what animal can kill a hippo

Many people believe that hippos eat their young, but this is actually a myth. While it is true that hippos can be brutal towards their young, they do not actually eat them. The reason for this misconception is likely due to the fact that hippos are known to kill their young on occasion. This usually happens when a male hippo is trying to establish dominance over a new group, or when a female hippo has had an unusual birth experience. But do hippos eat their young? However, the vast majority of hippos do not attack or kill their young, and they actually provide them with a great deal of care and protection. 

do hippos eat their young

Do Hippos Eat Baby Hippos?

While it is true that hippopotamuses don’t typically eat their young, there have been many recorded instances of them attacking and even killing baby hippos. Hippo groups usually consist of 15 to 50 individuals, with the number of females far greater than the number of males. This allows for one dominant male to preside over several other males. While hippos generally enjoy spending time together in the muddy wallows of Africa on hot summer days, newborn calves always stay close to their mothers. Calves shadow their mothers as they swim in the murky waterholes, graze on grassy land, and bask in the sun. 

The mating season is a time of intense competition for male hippos. They vie for the attention of females in order to mate as much as possible. However, females often have calves to care for and so they deny the proposals of males. This can lead to frustration and anger in the males, who may then target the calves in an attempt to mate with the mother.

baby hippo with mother

The mother hippo does her best to protect her calf from the advances of the male, but in many cases she is unsuccessful. The male hippo is much larger and stronger than the calf, so he is able to chase it down easily. 

Once he catches up to the calf, he grabs it in his mouth and uses his sharp teeth to penetrate its skin. This can cause severe bleeding and death in the calf. In some cases, the mother hippo may be able to intervene and save her calf, but usually, she is powerless to stop the male from harming or killing it.

This fight makes the baby hippo to its last breath. This dead body of a baby hippo becomes a great feast for crocodiles. They satisfy their hunger by chewing on the tender flesh of the baby.

Finally, a male hippo wins. The female mother hippo feels pain for some days but is helpless. Nature makes the female hippo forget over a period of time.

That Causes Hippopotamuses to Attack Their Young?

The reason behind attacking the baby hippo by the male hippo is as follows

  • To get dominance over other hippos
  • To freely mate with mother hippo and remove interruptions.

The reason behind attacking the baby hippo by the female hippo are as follows:

  • If a female believes that the surrounding environment is too dangerous for her to successfully raise the child, she may resort to attacking the infant in order to recoup the energy she has invested in the child.
  • Infanticide is more likely to occur in moms who are malnourished or who had an atypical birth experience.

Misconception

Hippos are unique creatures that are often misunderstood. While they may appear to be aggressive, they are actually quite gentle and protective by nature. One of the ways in which they care for their young is by carrying them in their mouths. This behavior is known as “jawing,” and it serves multiple purposes. 

  • It helps to keep the calf safe while crossing dangerous rivers or waterholes. 
  • It allows the mother to quickly move her calf to safety if she feels threatened by her surroundings. 
  • It gives the calf a measure of protection from predators or other hippos. 

In short, jawing is just one of the many ways that hippos show their care and affection for their young.

There is a misconception that mother hippos are prone to eating their young. This wrong idea originated from a few sensationalized news stories that included photos of mother hippos with their mouths open and teeth showing. These photos were taken out of context and the reporters who published them did so in order to sell their stories.

In reality, mother hippos are very gentle and nurturing creatures. They spend a great deal of time caring for their young, protecting them from predators, and teaching them how to survive in the wild. 

hippo with a young hippo in the water

Hippo Cannibalism

Scientists have discovered that hippopotami can be cannibals. This is an unusual act for the species, as they are mostly herbivores. Once during a drought, the hippos at Kruger National park in South Africa were caught red-handedly. Scientists believe that this act of cannibalism is a result of the desperation for food and water. However, further research needs to be done in order to confirm this theory.

Final words

In conclusion, hippopotamuses don’t typically eat their young. While it may appear that they are doing so, it is more likely that they are trying to protect the calf from predators. By holding the calf in their mouths, they can keep it safe and away from harm. However, there are times when hippopotamuses do kill their young, usually for their own gain. Whether they are motivated by hunger or thirst, or simply because the calf is in their way, these instances are relatively rare. Overall, hippopotamuses are more likely to be protective of their young than anything else.

Read our other Hippo blogs below:

References:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9298863/The-moment-baby-hippo-attacked-drowned-bull-defeated-father-dominance.html
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/150123-hippos-cannibalism-animals-food-science
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/veras-cub-why-some-mother_b_81146

Author Profile
Zahra Makda
Wildlife Enthusiast | Explorer at Animals Research

Growing up enjoying the beauty of my village, a good passion for nature developed in me from childhood. Following my passion for the natural world, I have chosen zoology for my graduation, during my undergraduate degree, I participated in many nature trails, bird watching, rescues, training for wildlife conservation, workshop, and seminars on biodiversity. I have a keen interest in invertebrate biology, herpetology, and ornithology. Primary interests include studies on taxonomy, ecology, habitat and behavior.

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