Do Hippos Kill more than Lions? Get the Facts!

  • By: Alex
  • Date: July 29, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

That’s a question long debated by experts in wildlife conservation. And while there is no definitive answer, the latest research suggests that hippos may actually be more deadly than lions.

That’s a question long debated by experts in wildlife conservation. And while there is no definitive answer, the latest research suggests that hippos may actually be more deadly than lions.

In this recent article, we have found that Hippos kill more people annually than lions.

Hippos are more aggressive and territorial than lions and can attack and kill other animals even when not hungry.

On the other hand, lions are typically considered the king of the jungle. 

They are one of the most iconic animals in Africa, and they are known for their strength and bravery. While lions kill people on occasion, they typically feel threatened or defend their territory.

So, while the answer to which animal kills more prey is still up for debate, it appears that hippos may be the deadliest animals. This should be taken into consideration when designing wildlife conservation programs.

Do hippos kill the most?

Do hippos kill the most?

While the idea of a hippopotamus as a man-eater is as old as Herodotus, how many human fatalities they really cause is an interesting question. I needed data on fatal encounters between humans and potentially dangerous animals to answer it. Such data are not readily available for several reasons:

  1. People tend to die in remote places where they are not found, 
  2. There is a social stigma associated with certain kinds of animal fatalities (for instance, croc attacks in Africa), 
  3. It’s hard to draw the line when determining which deaths should be attributed to an animal and how much.

For these reasons, my sources consisted in part of:

  • Reports of human fatalities caused by animals in the news
  • Fatal animal encounters reported on Wikipedia
  • Reports of human fatalities caused by animals in scientific journals

The most comprehensive data set I could find was for hippos. Hippos kill an average of 500 people a year, which is more than any other large animal. Lions kill an average of about 200 people a year.

Since the data analyzed below are just averages, it is not clear that hippos kill more than lions if one considers individual fatalities. There is such a thing as “rare events,” which seems to be the case with both animals.

The more significant number of human fatalities due to hippos vs. lions is an average artifact; however, I think it is small enough to neglect in the following discussion.

How do hippos kill humans?

When hippos attack, it is either out of defense or territoriality most of the time. However, they have also been very playful and curious animals which can sometimes lead to unsuspecting people being attacked.

During a hippo attack, the victim will be submerged underwater and then bitten repeatedly on their head, neck, and body.

Since hippos have very poor eyesight, they use their excellent sense of hearing and smell to locate prey. Victims often report that the attack happened without any warning and that the hippo came out of nowhere.

Due to their territoriality and tolerance of humans, hippos should be avoided at night or after dark.

In addition, young children are more likely to be victims because they cannot swim as fast as adults since hippos are more likely to attack from the side rather than behind.

Hippos are also particularly dangerous from March to May, the end of the mating season.

They have even been known to attack boats with other hippos who do not belong in their environment.

So if you are ever in Africa and come across a hippo, be sure to give them a wide berth and remember that they are one of the most dangerous animals in the world.

Do hippos eat humans?

The short answer is no, hippos don’t eat people on purpose. Hippos are herbivores who eat grasses, dung, and aquatic vegetation.

However, they have been known to become man-eaters on occasion. When this happens, it is usually because the hippo is defending itself from a person or people it feels threatened by rather than consuming a human.

When hippos have been known to eat humans, it is usually because they were already dead or injured.

Do lions ever kill hippos?

Do lions ever kill hippos?

Yes, they do, but the number is not significant enough to impact the hippo population.

According to this source, big cats sometimes prey on hippos in hyperphagia. 

Hippos have become a meal for some lions during these times, but it is sporadic that a lion will attack a hippo.

Lions usually hunt hippos at night by stalking them silently until they can pounce on their prey.

However, it has also been documented that an attack may follow during daytime when the lion leaps onto the back of a resting hippo and forces it underwater until it drowns.

Hippos are also threatened by crocodiles, especially Nile crocodiles, which sometimes prey on their young.

Crocodiles have been seen to break into submerged caves inhabited by female hippos and eat their calves.

This is apparently a rare event, as adult hippos are too large and powerful for crocodiles to kill quickly. However, several reports of adult hippos being killed by crocodiles have been reported.

It’s also possible that the ancient Egyptians revered the hippopotamus as a deity since it was one of the few creatures that could kill lions.

How many lions does it take to beat a hippo?

How many lions does it take to beat a hippo?

This is a question that has puzzled people for years. Some say that it would take at least two lions to take down a hippo, while others believe that more lions would be necessary. The answer to this question is still unknown.

However, what is known is that hippos are one of Africa’s most dangerous animals, and taking them on is not advisable.