Elephant vs Hippo: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: December 28, 2021
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Elephants and hippos are two of the largest and fiercest mammals to roam Africa. They’re both capable of scaring off or even killing lions, the supposed kings of the jungle. What happens if an elephant vs hippo fight happens, though? On one hand, you have a massive herbivore that can stomp on smaller mammals and hardly notice. On the other hand, you have the hippo, a massive, semi-aquatic beast that is the bane of careless, thirsty creatures throughout its range.

Elephants and hippos have fought before, and they will fight again as they live in the same range as one another in Africa. We’ll break down the facts about who wins these battles and why!

Comparing an Elephant and a Hippo

Elephant vs hippo
An elephant is a much larger, more dangerous animal than the hippo.

A-Z-Animals.com

ElephantHippo
SizeWeight: 6,500lbs – 12,000lbs
Height: 7ft – 12ft at shoulder
Length: 18ft – 21ft
Weight: 3,000lbs – 4,000lbs
Height: 4ft – 5.5ft at shoulder
Length: 10.5ft 16.5 ft.
Speed and Movement Type9-25 mph
– Capable of charging
– Top speed of 20 mph- 30mph – Trot
5 mph in the water
 Bite Power and Teeth-Elephants have weak teeth and do not use them for defense.  1,800 PSI bite power
-36 sharp teeth
– Incisors up to 1.2ft, canines up to 1.5ft.
Senses– Great hearing
– Poor vision
Can sniff out food miles away  
– Great sense of smell
– Good eyesight, especially underwater due to a clear membrane – Can hear well on land and in water
Defenses– Massive size and weight
– Tough skin
– Thick skin
– Fierce behaviors
– Size and weight
Offensive Capabilities– Tusks can impale enemies
– Devastating stomping
– Can use head and trunk to tip prey – High animal intelligence
– Incredible biting power
– Charging with weight  
Predatory Behavior– Non-predator but will fiercely attack encroachers.
– Grazes for much of the day
– Ambush hunter that only leaves head above water and then attacks

The Key Factors in a Fight Between an Elephant and a Hippo

What Do Hippos Eat
The fight between elephant and hippo comes down to size, strength, and offensive power.

nataliatamkovich/Shutterstock.com

A battle between an elephant and a hippo would be decided by a series of key factors. We have identified seven total components of battle that include physical features and combat abilities that determine which animal wins. Consider the different facets of each beast and learn what makes them superior or inferior to the other.

Physical Features

mother and baby elephant walking together
Elephants weigh up to 12,000lbs and stand 12ft tall.

iStock.com/saha_avijan

The rule of the wild is that the larger animals tend to be more successful in fights against smaller ones. That is not always the case, though. A highly skilled predator can effectively kill a larger animal if it takes the right steps. Let’s size up the two animals and get the tale of the tape.

Elephant vs Hippo: Size

When it comes to size, both the hippo and the elephant are very large creatures. The hippo weighs 3,000lbs – 4,000lbs and can grow over 5ft high at the shoulder. Their length can exceed 15ft too! They’re very large and that makes them incredibly dangerous.

The elephant weighs between 6,000 and 12,000lbs, has a height up to 12ft, and can measure 21ft in length.

The elephant has a massive advantage in terms of size.

Elephant vs Hippo: Speed and Movement

The elephant is a large animal, but that does not mean it’s slow. In fact, the elephant can charge at speeds of 25mph when it is chasing after enemies to scare them off or kill them. That’s speedy, but the hippo is also fast. The hippo can run at 20mph, but some researchers have claimed they can reach 30mph.

Being the elephant and hippo have similar speeds that were measured, this statistic is a tie.

Elephant vs Hippo: Bite Power and Teeth

The elephant doesn’t use its teeth in a way that matters in a fight, but the hippo uses its massive teeth to great effect. This animal has a bite force exceeding 1,800 PSI and has teeth over a foot long. Their teeth are deadly and immensely powerful, supposedly capable of biting a crocodile in half.

Hippos get the advantage for biting and teeth.  

Elephant vs Hippo: Senses

Poor senses can leave a creature open to harm, but good senses can stop an attack before it occurs. Elephants have great hearing and sense of smell, the latter of which allows them to smell food from miles away.

Hippos have a great sense of smell, good eyesight on land and in water, and they can hear pretty well.

Hippos’ senses are better-balanced, so they get the overall advantage.

Elephant vs Hippo: Physical Defenses

Nothing scares potential predators off like large animals. After all, most predators don’t want to put themselves at risk. That is what keeps both the hippo and the elephant safe from predators, at least as adults.

Both animals also have thick, tough skin that is hard for predators to pierce. Both also have fierce defense displays that scare predators away.

The animals’ defenses, without size as a factor, are a tie.

Combat Skills

Strongest animal bite – hippopotamus
Hippos have one of the strongest bites of any animal.

Size doesn’t always matter in a fight. After all, the elephant is a herbivore that is less territorial while the hippopotamus is also primarily a herbivore, but has no problem going after manned boats to defend its territory. Take a look at how each creature’s fighting prowess factors into their battle.

Elephant vs Hippo: Offensive Capabilities

Both animals are offensive powerhouses. On one hand, the elephant can simply stomp enemies to death because they weigh so much and are so fast. They can also spear their enemies with their tusks, leading to brutal scenes on the savannah. Lastly, elephants can use their head to batter their foes, a headbutt like no other.

On the other hand, hippos are highly aggressive creatures that can also trample enemies, bite through them, or drag them into the water and kill them.

Both animals have brutal, effective offensive measures, so we’re calling this a tie from an objective standpoint.

What Are Key Differences Between Elephants and Hippos?

Aggressive Animal: Hippopotamus
Hippos are highly aggressive but much smaller than elephants.

Karel Bartik/Shutterstock.com

The elephant weighs more, stands taller, and is much longer than a hippo. The hippo is aggressively territorial, but the elephant is a somewhat docile creature. Another noteworthy distinction is that the hippo is semi-aquatic, so it spends a lot of time in the water, but the elephant does not spend a significant portion of time in the water.

These are the main differences between the two animals, but many others exist.  

Who Would Win in a Fight Between Elephant and Hippo?

elephant close up in a field
An elephant would win a fight against a hippo.

David Steele/Shutterstock.com

In an elephant vs hippo fight, the elephant is going to win. Assuming both creatures are fully grown adults, the elephant is just too big for the hippo to handle.

Hippos are too smart to pick a fight with an elephant, so they have no idea what it takes to bring one down. Sure, they could bite a leg and try to drag the elephant into the water, but the chances are good that they would get their head stomped in for their effort.

Even if the hippo did successfully ambush and bite the elephant, the elephant would rear back in pain from being bitten and then spear a tusk through the hippo. That would cause massive damage to the hippo’s body or organs, instantly debilitating or outright killing them.

In a fight, the elephant would handily win. However, the two creatures tend to live near one another in relative peace in the real world. The hippos make room for elephants to avoid conflict because they know that elephants are simply too strong to fight.

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.