Picture of hippos - what do they eat?

What Do Hippos Eat? The Answer May Surprise You

Our veterinarians research and recommend the best products. Learn more about our process. We may receive a commission on purchases made from our links.

Hippopotamuses, or hippos, dwell on land and love to swim in the water, which makes them semi-aquatic animals. The scientific name for a hippo is Hippopotamus amphibius and they come from the Hippopotamidae as one of the two species that are extant in that group of animals. 

What do hippos eat? What process do hippos undergo to hunt in the wild for their food? Let’s jump into it!

What Do Hippos Eat in the Wild? 

What do hippos eat? Hippos are herbivores and usually follow a vegetarian diet. A hippos food source is primarily short grass in the African savannah that zebras graze on as well. In the waters, they will feed on shoots and reeds while entering the water before submerging for a swim. 

If they find fruit in the wild, they will partake in it. The most watery fruits such as banana, watermelon, and papayas are the main fruits in a hippos diet. However, common hippos feed more on the grass while pygmy hippos like to dabble in fruit options once in a while. 

Despite their gargantuan stature which may make people think they are carnivores, hippos do not eat meat. They prefer the plants and vegetation found on land and nearby the local waters in which they wade and swim. 

What Do Hippos Drink?

Hippos love water. In fact, they spend most of their time– about 16 hours a day– submerged in water. As a result, they drink up as much as they need while they’re lounging in the river.

How Hippos Hunt in the Wild

Hippos have large tusks and teeth that never stop growing. If one male must fight another, they use these tusks for battle. 

When it’s time to defend themselves from predators such as lions, hyenas, or crocodiles, they will charge at the animal and clamp down on their heads with their large mouths. Since hippos are herbivores, they do not have to chase their meal around as carnivores do. 

Since they are plant eaters, they locate the green grass or fruit in the wild and consume it leisurely.  

How Much Do Hippos Eat? 

Hippos usually consume about 88 pounds of food per night. That’s a lot of grass and fruit! Hence, hippos can consume up to 1.5% of their body weight if they are standard size while the largest amongst the species can consume up to 2.5% of their body weight. 

Most hippos weigh one and a half to two tons. Male adult hippos can weigh between 3,300 to 4,000 pounds. Females weigh in at- 2,900 to 3,300 pounds. 

What Eats Hippos?

Nile crocodiles usually go after hippo babies because they are smaller and easier to hunt than adults. Unless crocodiles work together, they do not have success bringing down an adult hippo for a meal. 

Spotted hyenas use their power in number within their pack to attack one hippo to consume it for a meal. Adult hippos are too aggressive for hyenas to handle. 

Lions utilize pack tactics to corner a hippopotamus to feed on it. The lionesses are responsible for hunting. When they find food, they must bring it back to the male lion of the group for him to eat first before they can have a bite. 

Tips from Our Vets

Though it may seem weird to try to identify different animals’ feces, there are many cases where you may need to do exactly that.

Many home and property owners come across animal feces and are concerned about what animals may be lurking. Being able to identify the feces that wildlife and rodents leave behind will not only let you know what animals are in the area, but also can give clues as to how many of them are present.

At first, it can be distressing to find foreign looking animal feces in your home or on your property. Fears of aggressive or rabid animals, as well as the diseases they may carry are often the first worries.

Protecting your family and pets is of utmost importance. However, taking the time to correctly identify the feces is essential in assessing the threat or risk from the animals.

This research will also enable a home or property owner to devise an effective strategy for keeping any pest animals out of their homes, barns, or other areas where they are not welcome.

Scat Identification Techniques

  1. The first thing to do if you come across scat, or feces from animals, is to observe the location of the droppings. Notice where the feces are in relation to buildings, other structures, other animals, water, roads, and vegetation. Different animals will place their droppings in particular locations and this can be the first clue to identifying them.
  2. Next, observe the placement of the scat. Are the feces hidden or buried? Are they randomly dropped all over an area with seemingly little regard for placement, or are they tucked away in corners or neat piles? These factors can greatly narrow down the list of possible culprits.
  3. Note the size of the scat. If you are investigating feces found in your home or on your property, it is a good idea to obtain a ruler or tape measure that you can use to measure. Some animals’ feces may look identical to others from the same family, and size may be the only distinguishing feature. *REMEMEBR: animal feces can carry both diseases and parasites so they should never be handled without gloves.*
  4. What is the shape of the found fecal matter? Some shape characteristics to look for include if the feces are round, tapered at the ends, completely tubular, round pellets, twisted, or moist mounds.
  5. An additional clue to the species of animal leaving the scat is what is included in the feces. Berries, hair, seeds, and plant parts should all be looked for in the droppings. This information can be used to identify the animal that left it.
  6. Lastly, look around the area where you first identified the scat. In cases of feces from animals that have similar appearing feces to another species, it can be helpful to search for nearby footprints or tracks left by the animals. This can be used to confirm species.

Final Thoughts on Hippos Diets

If you’re ever faced with the unlikely decision of what to feed a hippo, grass and fruit are your answer. Hippos are herbivores and do not eat meat despite some misconceptions.

If you’re looking for more information on animal diets, we created a guide to human foods dogs can and can’t eat, and you can also check out our resources on the diets of various animals below:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.