Are hippos big killers?

I was trying to find some pictures of hippos for a painting when I came across an interesting fact. That hippos have killed over 400 people, the highest of any animal (except humans of course). I’m finding this hard to believe so can anybody confirm or deny this?

Yes. Hippos are extremely dangerous.

From the master.

Jill’s the master?

I guess it could happen; Ed’s getting on in years.

They said it on the Animal channel, yesterday. That is one reason not to have a pet hippo. Other reasons are they eat too much and last but not least they would make a mess in your pool. :smiley:

FWIW, Narmer, the very first Egyptian pharoah, was killed by a hippo.

Cecil didn’t seem to have any solid numbers for people killed by hippos or any other animal, and I haven’t found any reliable numbers, either. Still, it appears that people who DO know a lot about African wildlife are more wary of hippos than just about any other animals.

What it comes down to is this: they’re very territorial, very aggressive, and so large that they don’t really need to be afraid of anything or anyone. On top of that, they live in VERY dangerous, hostile surroundings (packs of lions and hyenas on land, swarms of crocodiles in the water), in which it just doesn’t pay to be nice!

If a crocodile is swimming close by, it makes good sense for a mama hippo to attack it first and ask questions later. And if, from under water, a canoe looks sort of like a crocodile? Same logic applies.

In the grand scheme of things, hippos probably don’t account for all that many human deaths. They don’t compare to disease, or to HUMAN violence. But park rangers and zoologists will almost always agree that hippos are more dangerous than almost any of the big predators. Lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) certainly WILL attack people, but they’re usually cautious about it (“that human is pretty big… he might have a weapon… and they usually travel in groups, so he might have friends close by… I’m hungry, but there’s probably easier pickings to be had”). A hippo doesn’t have any such qualms, and won’t hesitate to attack.

Yes, hippo’s are dangerous, as stated in Jill’s excellent mailbag article. But another factor in the high death toll may be that they are comparitively more common than some other large beasts with nasty dispositions, and tend to inhabit areas used by people.

Hippos are considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and I once heard that they account for more human fatalities than any other species, including crocodiles and snakes combined.

Hippo Info

But I don’t want no Nile crocodiles, no rhinoceroseses – I only like hippopotamuseses. And Hippopotamuses like me, too.



Hey, if the kids next door can practice their ear-piercing rock-and-roll music, I can have a pet that sprays feces and urine by twirling its tail! :smiley:

Not quite the whole story, javaman. The first pharaoh of the First Dynasty was Menes, not Narmer (who was the last king of predynastic Egypt, not the “first pharoah”). And yes, Menes was in fact killed by a hippo, and buried at Abydos. Confusion stems from the uncertainty of who exactly Narmer was. He was a successful military leader, for sure. Some Egyptologists claim Menes is Narmer; some don’t. As this site explains:

No they don’t. They are just wating, biding their time to lull you into a false sense of security and friendship. Then, one balmy day, when you go go out to give your pet Hippo some yummy-nummy carrots… WHAMMO!! SPLATTT!! KA-ZOWWW
RiverRunner pate’. :smiley:

when my partner and i were camping by a river in kenya the locals were constantly telling us not to go outside the tent at night if we heard a noise, it would be hippos and you really dont want to get between a hippo and the river.
also a friend of a friend had his leg bitten off by a hippo while rafting in a river he shouldnt of. doesnt stop them being cute though.

My former roommate is a missionary kid from Kenya, and he said that everyone knew not to swim near the hippos.

So you’d better be extra careful giving him his massage if Santa listens to you, RiverRunner

I spent time in Kenya doing research in grad school; most of locals were pretty blase about crocodiles, but lived in fear of the hippos. Rumor mill had it that a tour guide was killed by a big male ramming his boat and then biting him in half.

In Roger Caras’ excellent book, Dangerous To Man, he again states that hippos are responsible for more deaths in Africa than crocodiles and snakes combined, although, once again, no numbers.

Another problem may be hippo’s extreme territoriality- large males fight for territory in bloody battles, and defend their harem and patch of swamp pretty viciously. Anything coming into their teritory, large or small, is deemed a threat and is summarily dealt with, first with a bluff, and then with a charge. Hippos also have the ability to open their mouths a stunning 180 degrees. They have extremely hard teeth and powerful jaw muscles, and the males have small, sharp tusks concealed in their cheeks that they use to stab and slash at opponents. Sort of like boars, actually.

Hippos, on a comletely unrelated note, express a red pigment in their sweat, which led to reports in the early 19th century by explorers that hippos sweat blood. Some researchers had speculated that there may be a bactericidal component to hippo’s sweat, since despite their spending most of their time in filthy, often stagnant pools, they very seldom contract infections of their wounds. (Of which they have many, due to their belligerent nature and the ever-present croc population.) Just a cool fact I thought I’d share.

The biggest killer of people in Africa, and indeed the world, is the mosquito - carrier of malaria and a fine selection of other diseases. Compared to the mosquito, the hippo is minor irritant.

That’s why I’m RiverRunner and not RiverWalker.

:smiley: backatcha!

I was recently at a “safari lodge” in Botswana, and the guides there (whose general knowledge about animals & birds was incredibly good) all felt that hippos were dangerous and cantankerous – confrontations were to be avoided at all costs.

I met a guy who had been on a canoe trip that was attached by a hippo. His canoe was bitten in half, though all escaped without injury. They were spotted by a passing aircraft and recsued the same day (which they felt was rather lucky).