I have been following documentaries about crocodiles and amazingly, crocodiles and hippos apparently seem to live happily in the same pond together without attacking each other.

Why is it so? Like no matter how strong hippo is, its soft skin is no match to the brutal jaws of a crocodile?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can a crocodile's jaws actually bite into something the size of a hippo? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Aug 7 '17 at 5:33


First, you are being misled by your wrong assumption that hippos have soft skin. Hippos have a 5 cm thick skin! For fun, here is a picture of a hippo skin.

enter image description here

They are big and pretty fast

An adult hippo weighs on average 1.5 and 1.3 tons for males and females respectively (with a record at 4.5 tons) and can run up to 30 km/h on land and up to 8 km/h in water (according to wikipedia > hippopotamus).

enter image description here

They have an aggressive nature

Hippos are aggressive animals (esp. males). Hippos kill about 500 people a year (against 1000 for crocodiles) according to this BBC article (but estimates seem to vary quite a bit from source to source).

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They have serious teeth

Hippos have a big mouth with very long teeth. Lower canines are 50cm (19.7 inches) long (see wikipedia citing Estes 1991)!

enter image description here

Hippos live in herd

As suggested by @ChinmayKanchi in the comments, because hippos live in a herd, a crocodile that attacks a hippopotamus might have to deal with more than one enemy.


You can find here a video fight between a crocodile and a hippopotamus (thanks to @TahlaIrfan) and here is a video of a lion waking up a hippo. You will easily find other videos on YouTube.

  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b Can you please cite the reference about the speed and weight? Thanks. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Mar 27 '19 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ My reference is simply wikipedia (wiki does not give further reference). $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Mar 27 '19 at 13:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.B First video link no longer works -- could you find an alternative source? 2nd video link is great :). $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Mar 28 '19 at 3:07

They don't look like prey animals. This is one of the most impressive skulls to stand beside of any living animal: enter image description here enter image description here The skin weighs about 270 kilos for an adult hippo of 1.5 tons, ranging from 12 to 35mm thick. enter image description here on page 3 https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1113/expphysiol.1964.sp001695

  • $\begingroup$ Hyenas are really badass. I saw a video last week when they killed even a hippo. $\endgroup$ – Failed Scientist Mar 27 '19 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ The skin look more than 35 mm thick in your last picture... $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Mar 28 '19 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ I know, I was puzzled by that so I checked an anatomy document which states 12-35 cm epidermis so presumably it's fat, on the hyperlink. $\endgroup$ – aliential Mar 28 '19 at 3:11

As Remi.b explained above, the average hippo is just too big and dangerous for the average croc to handle. That said, there were cases that very large crocodiles (such as the infamous Gustave) attacked and ate juvenile hippos (or very old or sick hippos). But usually the two practice a mutual "respect and awe" relationship with tense tolerance to each other, which may turn into a brutal fight if one of the sides gets too close to the other.


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