Hippo vs Lion: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: January 2, 2022
Image Credit John Carnemolla/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

Hippopotamuses, also known as hippos, are monstrous mammals that reside in Africa, living part-time on land and spending significant amounts of time in the water. They share their range with many other animals, including lions that frequent the same water sources as them. What happens when the king of the jungle meets an animal so fierce that it can bite through watercraft? We have the answer of which animal wins a hippo vs lion fight, and we’ll break down the battle for you, bit by bit.

By using the available information, we can show you which creature has the most advantages and is most likely to come out on top!

Comparing a Hippo and a Lion

Hippo vs lion
Hippos are larger, semiaquatic mammals with long teeth.

A-Z-Animals.com

HippoLion
SizeWeight: 3,000lbs – 4,000lbs
Length: 10.5ft 16.5 ft.
Height: 4ft – 5.5ft at shoulder
Weight: 264lbs – 550lbs
Length: 4.7ft – 8.2ft
Height: 3ft-4ft
Speed and Movement Type– Top speed of 20 mph- 30mph
– Trot runner
– 5 mph in the water
-35 mph (closing speed of 50mph for very short bursts)
-Sprints to enemies with a galloping gait.
Bite Power and Teeth1,800 PSI bite power
-36 sharp teeth
– Incisors up to 1.2ft, canines up to 1.5ft.
650-1000 PSI bite power
-30 teeth including up to four
– 4-inch canines
Senses– Great sense of smell
– Good eyesight, especially underwater due to a clear membrane – Can hear well on land and in water
-Amazing sense of sight, especially night vision
-Good sense of smell capable of smelling other lions’ markings
-Great hearing allows them to hear prey miles away.
Defenses– Thick skin
– Fierce behaviors
– Size and weight
– Stays with pride for safety in numbers
– Large size
– Can quickly run away from enemies
Offensive Capabilities– Incredible biting power
– Charging with weight  
– Sharp claws can gash foes
– Paw strikes can deliver a powerful, staggering blow  
– Strong biting power can splinter bones and tear prey open.
Predatory Behavior– Ambush hunter that only leaves head above water and then attacks– Primarily stalks and pounces on the opponent
– Can act as an endurance predator
– Uses groups to take down prey

The Key Factors in a Fight Between a Hippo and a Lion

lion laying in den
The fight between a lion and hippo comes down to size, senses, and battle capabilities.

iStock.com/Denisapro

Deciding whether a hippo or a lion wins a fight against the other necessitates more than a glance at the creatures. We have found seven valuable points of data representing key factors that would provide these creatures with an edge over one another in battle.

Consider the physical characteristics and predatory inclinations of both animals and see how the advantages they garner impact a hypothetical fight.

Physical Features of Hippos and Lions

Animals that Sweat - Hippopotamus
Hippos are massive creatures that can weigh over 4,000lbs and measure16ft long!

Radek Borovka/Shutterstock.com

The law of the wild is very clear on the fact that the larger, stronger creatures are most likely to win a fight against smaller, weaker ones. That’s not the only physical trait that matters in a battle, though. Take a look at five traits that give these creatures an advantage over each other in the heat of battle.

Hippo vs Lion: Size

Lions are very large apex predators that have few natural predators in their range. They can weigh over 500lbs, stand 4ft tall, and measure 8ft long! Yet, they are small in comparison to a hippo. Hippos can weigh up to 4,000lbs and measure 16ft long while standing 5ft tall or more at the shoulder!

The largest hippo ever weighed 9,900 pounds and lived in a zoo in Germany while the largest lion on record also lived in captivity and weighed 827 pounds. The bottom line? Hippos weigh about 10 times as much as full-grown male lions.

Hippos have the size advantage in this fight!

Hippo vs Lion: Speed and Movement

Lions must be speedy if they want to catch their dinner. They have a running speed that regularly hits 35mph, but they can turn on the afterburners and reach 50mph right before attacking. Although hippos are very large animals, they have a unique trotting run style that lets them run between 20mph and 30mph. A lion can definitely catch a hippo, but it might not want to.

Lions have the speed advantage.

Hippo vs Lion: Bite Power and Teeth

Lions do not have the strongest bite on the savannah, but they can bite between 650PSI and 1,000PSI. They have 4-inch fangs and pose a formidable threat to just about any creature they get their paws on.

Hippos are simply indomitable when it comes to their bite power and teeth. They have 1,800PSI biting force and teeth that reach over a foot in length. A hippo has 36 teeth, all of them sharp and powerful.

Hippos have the advantage in terms of bite power and teeth.  

Hippo vs Lion: Senses

Lions have a fantastic sense of hearing that they can use to locate prey miles away. Their night vision is perfect for hunting, and they can smell well enough to identify specific animals.

Hippos have a good sense of vision, and it holds up in murky water. They also have a very good sense of smell, but not as good as a lion’s. Their hearing is good on land and in water, but not more potent than other predators.

The lion has an advantage in terms of its senses.

Hippo vs Lion: Physical Defenses

Lions can use their speed, size, and fellow members of their pride to ward off harm from others. In a one-on-one fight, though, their speed and size are the more important factors.

Hippos are similar to lions in that their vast size can ward off several predators at a time! Their skin is very thick and hard to get through, and they have a good threat display that scares off predators.

Hippos have the advantage in physical defenses.

Combat Skills of Hippos and Lions

What do lions eat - lion vs hyena
Lions are highly capable predators capable of fending off numerous smaller attackers.

Mark Sheridan-Johnson/Shutterstock.com

Hippos and lions are both highly capable predators. We are going to compare their combat skills to see which one of these animals has more to offer in terms of offense and predatory behaviors. We can use this information in conjunction with their physical traits to definitively prove which animals wins in a fight against the other.

Hippo vs Lion: Offensive Capabilities

Lions are potent offensive forces, bringing their weight and power to bear against another creature. They have strong legs topped by sharp claws that can dig deep into an enemy. They also have a powerful bite and a mouth that opens wide enough to get around just about any animal’s throat.

Hippos have fewer attacking methods. They use their weight to trample others underfoot or they use their massive bites to kill enemies.

We’re calling this section a tie; hippos have power, but lions have finesse.

Hippo vs Lion: Predatory Behaviors

Lions are predators that use ambush tactics to surprise and overwhelm enemies. They also simply pursue enemies and attack them, often as a pack. Hippos will often ambush creatures from the water, hiding most of their body beneath the water and suddenly attacking with a burst of speed.

These creatures are equal in their predatory behaviors.

What Are Key Differences Between a Hippo and a Lion?

What Do Hippos Eat
Hippos are omnivorous creatures that stand as tall as some humans, and lions are carnivores that grow about 4ft tall at the shoulder.

iStock.com/PB_Images

Hippos are longer, taller, and heavier than a lion, and hippos spend part of their time in the water while lions are completely terrestrial. Lions prefer to hunt their prey at dusk or night when they have the advantage from their senses. Hippos are almost purely herbivores while lions are carnivores.

Hippos have a much more powerful bite than lions despite both creatures using their bite to kill others. These are the most significant differences between hippos and lions.  

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Hippo and a Lion?

hippo charging towards camera with mouth open
A hippo would win a fight against a lion with its powerful bite force and sheer size.

PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock.com

A hippo would win a fight against a solo lion, and it would even fight several lions to a draw. The hippo’s sheer power and ability to hide in a place lions must visit, the water, would give them an advantage in a fight.

Even if a lion gets the drop on a hippo, it lacks the power to kill an animal this large without some serious help. Lions cannot kill adult hippos in one fell swoop; they must kill them with dozens of serious wounds. No hippo is going to allow a lion to live long enough to inflict that kind of damage on them.

If a lion and hippo saw each other coming, the fight would be all about brawn. The hippo just needs a single good bite to crush limbs or puncture vital areas on the lion. Their teeth are so large that one bite can break a lion’s bones and puncture its organs. That’s ignoring the simple weight disparity that could easily crush a lion.

Lions have the advantage in speed, and they can catch up to a hippo in the wild, but they probably do not want to. The better, safer option is to just evacuate the area or bring along enough of the pride to win. All in all, a hippo has enough advantages in the fight to beat a lion.  

Animals With the Toughest Skin
To stay cool in the blistering African heat, hippos spend most of their day in rivers and lakes.
John Carnemolla/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:
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.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.