Hippo Size: Just How Much Does a Hippo Weigh?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: January 12, 2022


Hippopotamuses are some of nature’s heavyweights. Their massive size and aggressive temperament have earned them a spot as Africa’s deadliest animal time and time again. It’s hard to imagine just how large they are unless you are near one in person (at which point it’s probably too late), but illustration and description may help get a grasp for just how large they are. Let’s take a look at learn: Just How Much Does a Hippo Weigh?

How much does a hippo weigh?

Hippo Size: Just How Much Does a Hippo Weigh?
Hippos weigh an average of 3,300 pounds, but males can grow much larger.

It’s no secret that hippos are some of the heaviest animals around, but just how heavy are they? Let’s take a look.

Generally, hippos weigh between 1 and 4.5 tonnes or 2,200 lbs-9,900 lbs. Their weight secures them as them as one of the “Worlds Heaviest Land Animals” quite easily. Above them are African elephants (12 tons), Asian elephants (8.15 tons), and African forest elephants (6 tons). Basically, only elephants have the upper hand when it comes to size.

There is one competitor, however, when it comes to their equal in size. The white rhinoceros averages the same weight as the hippo. Generally, hippos are regarded as the third largest land mammal after elephants and the largest rhinos.

When do hippos reach their full weight?

Hippos go through a gestation period of 240 days before giving birth. This is similar to humans (around 280), and it results in one baby at a time. When hippos are born, they are smaller than their parents but still significantly larger than many other animals, especially at birth. Generally, baby hippos start out at 50 lbs and are nursed for 18 months, after which they are weaned off milk and begin eating vegetation entirely.

Babies start growing at about a pound a day and don’t stop until they are their full weight. Female hippos usually mature between the ages of 5 or 6 but generally don’t fully stop growing until they are 25 years old. Males are a bit different, likely maturing a bit slower but never truly stop growing.

Do male and female hippos weigh the same?

Hippo Size: Just How Much Does a Hippo Weigh?
Female hippos are smaller than males, stopping their growth at 25 years old. Males never stop growing.

Image CreditPaulmaz at the English language Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Male and female hippos do not weigh the same, but they do grow at different rates.

Female hippos are the smaller of the two and usually grow to 3,300 lbs. After birth, they will stay with their mother until age 8, at which time they will be considered fully mature. Females grow until they are 25, at which point they stop.

Male hippos weigh more than female hippos of the same age. Generally, males weigh up to 7,000 lbs, a truly massive number. Research shows that they may mature slower than females, but they never actually stop growing. When a female maxes out at age 25, male hippos are able to keep putting on weight, making their theoretical maximum much higher.

What is the largest hippo to ever live?

Since males never stop growing, they hold most of the records for largest hippos ever.

The largest hippo ever recorded was a captive in a zoo in Germany. The 16-foot giant weighed in at 9,900 pounds, essentially the weight of three Honda Accords smashed into one body!

While the German hippo may be the largest one recorded in modern times, there is a prehistoric ancestor to the hippo that could grow larger. Hippopotamus gorgops ranged in modern-day Africa and was similar to our modern-day species of hippo, only larger. H. gorgops is known as the largest known species of hippo, averaging a massive 9,900 lbs, the max weight for our current largest hippo on record. Since we can only guess the average weight on our current fossils, who knows how large H. gorgops could have gotten in captivity.

Additionally, there is a species of hippo known as the pygmy hippo. These animals set a record for size, but in a more downward manner. They are still alive today and are rather cute. Pygmies live in forests and swamps around West Africa but are considered endangered. They are usually 1/4th the size of their other African cousins and are generally half as tall.

How much food do hippos eat?

As babies, hippos begin on a diet of milk. Since they are born in water and live most of their lives in water, they learn to nurse as their mothers swim around. Hippo milk is not pink, as many believe it to be, but it is nutritious. One source shows that a cup of hippo milk is 500 calories. This would make sense with how fast a hippo needs to gain weight in order not to fall prey to another animal.

Once they get older, they begin to eat other foods, mainly vegetation. A hippo begins weaning at 18 months and starts incorporating more grass and water vegetation into their diets. On average, hippos are known to eat up 88 lbs of food per day. While this may seem like a lot, it’s only about 1.5% of their body weight. Humans, for example, eat around .5% of their body weight. In order to proportionally keep up with a hippo, you would need to triple your dietary intake!

Do hippos have any predators?

Hippo Size: Just How Much Does a Hippo Weigh?
Hippos don’t really have predators outside of crocodiles preying on unwatched babies.

Image CreditFrank Wouters / Creative Commons

Full-grown hippos have very few predators. There are a few instances of hippos being preyed on by lions, but it is rare. It requires the hippo to be caught out of the water and a truly large group of lions to be particularly hungry. Additionally, crocodiles and hippos live by one another without too much issue. A crocodile will occasionally get a baby hippo that is unguarded, but it is rare. On the other hand, hippos are known to catch and kill crocodiles that don’t leave watering areas the hippo considers to be its territory.

Truthfully, hippos are threatened most by humans. Poaching, habitat loss, and hunting have resulted in declining populations. Pygmy hippos, the only other living species besides the commonly known African species, are threatened and nearly extinct.

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