Tuesday, November 29

What do hippos eat? Are they omnivores or herbivores? We explain.


  • Hippos are primarily herbivorous, but they have been observed to engage in omnivorous behavior.
  • Hippos are the third largest living land mammal.
  • Hippos, residing in East and sub-Saharan Africa, cannot swim.

The hippopotamus, also known as a hippo, is a massive amphibious mammal that spends most of its time near “lakes, pools, mudholes, or in the preferred moving waters of rivers,” according to the San Diego Zoo.

While cute looking, hippos are powerful animals whose canine teeth, used for fighting off predators or other hippos, can reach 20 inches in length. With their African wildlife predators, these defensive traits are often necessary.

What do hippos eat? Are they pure herbivores or do their huge strength and size allow them to be more of an omnivore?

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What do hippos eat?

Hippos are primarily herbivorous, meaning they eat only plants, but they have been observed to engage in omnivorous behavior. Live Science says hippos have a “mostly herbivorous appetite,” made up of about 80 pounds of grass each night, as well as fruits found during nightly scavenges.

However, a 2015 study by the Mammal Review shows hippos “occasionally” feed on animal carcasses, a more omnivorous behavior. Hippos are known to attack and eat animals like wildebeests, zebras and kudus, as well as other hippos in cases of cannibalism, according to AZ Animals. They also steal meat from other predators.

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Hippos are the third-largest living land mammal, Live Science says, growing to over 10 feet long and five feet tall while weighing between 3,000 and nearly 10,000 pounds. The National Library of Medicine explains hippos are aggressive and dangerous and, when paired with their size and hunger, this makes them a formidable threat to other animals.

Can hippos swim?

Contrary to popular belief, the San Diego Zoo explains hippos cannot swim. The zoo says hippo bodies are too dense to even float. To maneuver in the water, hippos push themselves off the bottom of rivers or just walk around on the floor of the river by a unique gallop.

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