How Fast Can a Hippo Run

How Fast Can a Hippo Run? Exploring their Surprising Speed

Cheetahs, horses, and maybe greyhounds come to mind when we think of quick animals. What about hippos, even so? Although hippopotamuses are usually thought of as slow-moving creatures, they are actually capable of running very swiftly.

Hippos may run at different rates, and this article will cover those rates as well as some interesting facts about these magnificent animals.

The Basics of Hippo Anatomy

It’s important that we understand a few fundamentals of hippo anatomy before discussing how quickly hippos can sprint. Hippos are large semi-aquatic mammals found in Africa south of the Sahara. They can weigh up to 4,000 pounds and stand as tall as 5 feet at their shoulders. Considering their massive size, hippos have relatively small legs in comparison to their bodies, making running more challenging.

Hippos also have a unique skeletal structure which makes them easier for them to move around in the water. Their bodies are barrel-shaped, with short legs, a wide, flat tail, a big head, and a big mouth. They have a thick, sturdy shell that shields them from bites and scratches in their aquatic home.

How Fast Can Hippos Run on Land?

So, just how fast can hippos run on land? The answer is… it depends. Adult hippos can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour on land, which is faster than most humans can run. However, this top speed is only achievable for short distances, such as when hippos are fleeing from danger.

In general, hippos are not built for speed on land. Their short legs and barrel-shaped bodies make it difficult for them to maintain a fast pace for long periods of time. Additionally, hippos are more comfortable in water than on land, so they will typically try to return to the safety of the water as quickly as possible.

What Factors Affect Hippo Speed?

Like all animals, a hippo’s ability to run quickly depends upon a number of various factors. Among the most important factors are:

Age and Size

Younger and smaller hippos are usually faster and more nimble than older, larger ones, as is the case with many other animals. Young hippos are better equipped to run at fast speeds because they have more energy and are still growing in strength and coordination.


The surfaces on which a hippo runs can also have a significant impact on its speed. Hippos prefer flat, even land over rocky or irregular terrain. Furthermore, the damp or muddy ground can slow a hippo down since it makes gaining traction more difficult.

Threat Level

When a hippo feels threatened, it can run more quickly than it would under normal conditions. If a hippo detects a threat, such as a predator or another hippo invading its territory, it will flee the risk and return to safety.

Fun Facts About Hippos

Now that we’ve covered the essentials of hippo speed, let’s look at some interesting facts about these wonderful animals:

  • Hippos are actually one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. They are responsible for more human deaths each year than lions, crocodiles, or any other large predator.
  • Hippos, although their massive size, can move fast and with astonishing elegance in the water. They can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes and swim at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
  • Hippos are gregarious animals who assemble in groups called “bloats” or “pods.” These groups can range in size from a few to over 100 people.
  • Hippos are often in battle with predators, defending themselves with their strong jaws and teeth. They have mouths that can expand to 150 degrees, which is broad enough to fit a small car!
  • Hippos, with their threatening reputation, are actually fairly defenseless in their native environment. Numerous hippo populations are in danger of going extinct due to habitat degradation, hunting, and other human activities.

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