Home Animals How to Survive a Hippo Attack | 5 Tourist Survival Tips

How to Survive a Hippo Attack | 5 Tourist Survival Tips

how to survive a hippo attack

The hippopotamus has gained the title of being the most dangerous of Africa’s land mammals due to its reputation for attacking humans.

These enormous predators, who have the widest mouths of all land animals, are responsible for the deaths of over 500 people every year. In this article, we will discuss some tips on how to survive a hippo attack.

To be honest, even an adult with good fitness is nothing for a fully-grown hippo. Therefore, if you are a tourist and you observe this wonderfully agile monster displaying symptoms of aggression, you should instantly begin making your plans.

how to survive a hippo attack

Important Hippo Fundamentals for Foreign Tourists


The word “hippopotamus” brings to mind not only a huge, half-aquatic cow but also one of Africa’s most dangerous animals. The hippopotamus has thick skin and small legs for the size of its body. Hippos can weigh up to 1400 kg for a female and up to 4500 kg for a male. They are the third largest land animal on the planet, after elephants and white rhinos. Hippos are usually between 3.5 and 5 meters long and 1.5 to 2 meters tall at the shoulders when they are full-grown. A hippo calf may take between 5 and 7 years to grow into an adult.


These monsters are incredibly quick despite the fact that they are quite large. The average adult hippo can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, which is equivalent to going from 0 to 40 miles per hour in the blink of an eye. That is around the same speed as Usain Bolt on average!

You don’t want to watch what happens when a massive amount of flesh charges at such a high speed because it’s terrifying. Running ahead of these swift beasts on foot is simply not possible under any circumstances.


The common misconception about hippos is that they are quiet, herbivorous animals who don’t interact with other species and prefer to keep alone. The young, tender grasses come in first place on their list of preferred foods. They are also quite fond of veggies and consume a sizable amount of food each night. People who live in the area frequently discuss the unique set of killing talents possessed by hippos. They have been seen hunting impalas, kudus, and even buffalos on numerous occasions.


Even though most pictures of them show them messing around and playing in the muddy river during the day, that is never the whole story. After dark, they can graze for food for more than 5 to 6 miles a day. Kenyan vegetable farmers fear hippo attacks.

Kenyan farmers who grow vegetables have to watch their backs all the time because hippos can attack and do a lot of damage. Hippos frolic, bathe and submerge for 16 hours a day. They can also invade from below. Hippos are one of Africa’s most hazardous animals, despite their cuteness. They’re hostile and attack humans without provocation.

hippo with wide mouth

Five Factors that Motivate Hippos to Attack

Now, let’s discuss what every tourist wants to know: why are these big, cute-looking things so unsafe? Even though Hippopotamus are herbivores, they can sometimes be very dangerous to humans.

1. They are highly territorial:

These wild animals are incredibly possessive of their territory and readily scared when they feel threatened. It is never a smart idea to sneak up on a hippo, as they are very alert animals. Protecting their territory comes naturally to them; it is in their nature. When boats or kayaks get too close to hippos, the animals can become frightened.

2. They love to be in water:

Hippos prefer to maintain a tight hold on their water and land territories. If they notice any suspicious activity between themselves and the river, they are easily awakened.

3. They have the largest jaws on the ground:

The massive animal’s mouth can be opened to an incredible 90 degrees on all sides. That is 180 degrees. The force of the bite is greater than ten times that of any adult human individual. Those enormous incisors of theirs are capable of penetrating a fully grown crocodile as easily as one might a plump tomato.

4. They love their youngsters:

If their calf’s safety is in danger, the females may become aggressive. According to studies, between 29% and 87% of hippo assaults result in death.

5. They take advantage of their huge size:

It seems pretty clear that no land-based predator is going to try to stuff that much food down its throat! Because they are so big, they can’t be attacked by predators. So, they don’t have to worry about defense and can easily live even with the dangerous African crocodiles.

hippo in water

Avoid the Following Red Flags:

The Hippo’s attack is not sudden as that of animals like snakes, poisonous frogs, or dangerous insects. Therefore, it should not be difficult for you to recognize the danger signals of a hippo.

  • At night, you should stay away from the path where you can see hippo tracks.
  • Get out of the area where there are hippo droppings and footprints.
  • Don’t get in the way of the hippo getting to the water. Hippos don’t like it.
  • Never do anything that might surprise a hippo when you are in close proximity to it. Hippos are known for their sensitivity.
  • Avoid paddling in shallow lakes in a canoe or kayak. Hippos simply move along the ground underneath the water instead of swimming. So it would be wiser to take your boat journey in deeper waters.
  • Never, ever approach the calf area. The very last thing you want to deal with is an unhappy mother hippo.
  • If a hippo is observed opening and closing its jaws (or yawning) with its head held high, quickly turn around and leave the area. Yawning is a big warning sign of personal space invasion.
  • Even if they are far away, you should stay away from male hippos who are fighting.

Five Hippo Survival Tips

The best course of action would be to avoid the wild animals before they can strike. But in the wild, anything might happen. You unexpectedly see a hippo bull charging in your direction.

1. Check the water before going on a boat ride. Most attacks happen in the water during the day. The hippo just sneaks under the boat and pushes it with a lot of force into the air. So, if you are on a boat and see a family of hippos nearby, it is best to move the boat in a reverse way.

2. Make a lot of noise: If you find yourself in an area where hippos are present, you need unfortunately keep your distance and try to attract attention by making a lot of noise. While you are doing this, wave your hands above your head to let them know that you are in control of the area.

3. Move to higher ground immediately; a charging hippopotamus is the last thing you want to deal with. This vicious beast can easily outrun your puny human feet because they are so slow. So run in a zigzag pattern. Make use of his weight to your advantage. Climb up a termite or a tree and look about. Alternately, if you are able to, run up a hill.

4. Don’t give up hope: In a dangerous situation like this, your strength can get you a long way. Paul Templer, who was attacked by hippos, talks about his own experience. Mr. Templer is a tour guide, and he was on the Zambezi river with one of his clients.

Then, all of a sudden, a bull hippo showed up and pulled him out of his canoe. This man went into the hippo’s mouth three times. Even though Mr. Templer was lucky enough to be saved, he lost his left arm.

5. Worst case scenario: There are no known instances of men being eaten by hippos. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be reduced to a pulp by it. What happens if you unexpectedly find yourself in a hippo’s mouth? The intention is to inflict as much discomfort as possible on the animal. Take anything it has in its mouth and force it to let you go. You should then make a dash in the reverse.


What should I do if a hippo attacks me?

1) Run away as soon as a hippo opens its mouth to show its teeth.

2) Move away from the hippos if you’re in the water and have seen them there.

3) If you’re on land, seek safety.

4) If necessary, run in a zigzag pattern.

Can anything beat a hippo in a fight?

Elephants usually win. They’re bigger than hippopotamuses and can stomp them.

Will a hippo attack be unprovoked?

Hippos aren’t territorial on land, but they’ll fight water invaders. Hippos are unpredictable and prone to attack an intruder, not because they hate humans.

Can humans outrun hippos?

Hippos can’t be outrun. Hippos can run 30 mph, whereas Usain Bolt is just 23.4 mph.

Can you outswim a hippo?

They have dense leg bones that let them stay underwater, travel quickly along the bottom, and can hold their breath for 5 minutes. outswimming a hippo is impossible.

Final Words

Hippos provide an essential service to the African aquatic ecosystem by maintaining water levels and preventing the spread of invasive species. They are also a key source of food for many other animals, including crocodiles. As a result, hippos are protected by various laws and regulations. However, this does not mean that they are safe to approach. Hippos are notoriously aggressive and have been known to attack humans without provocation. As such, it is best to observe them from a safe distance during a safari. 

Read our other Hippo blogs below:

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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.

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A motivated philosophy graduate and student of wildlife conservation with a deep interest in human-wildlife relationships, including wildlife communication, environmental education, and conservation anthropology. Offers strong interpersonal, research, writing, and creativity skills.


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