Hippo vs Saltwater Crocodile: Key Differences (And Who Would Win in a Fight!)

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: June 4, 2022
© PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock.com
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You think the lion is dangerous until you face a hippo or a saltwater crocodile. These two beasts are among the most dangerous animals in Africa, and in today’s article, we will look at some of their differences and also consider who would win in a fight, if they were ever to cross paths.

Comparing a Hippo and a Saltwater Crocodile

The hippo differs from the saltwater crocodile in size and appearance.
HippoSaltwater Crocodile
Size2,200lbs to 9,900lbs 
6.5ft 16.5 ft long
440lbs to 2,200lbs
Can grow up to 23ft long
HabitatSwamps, lakes, and river areasSwamps, lakes, and river areas
AppearanceA large head, a trunk, and a short tail.A head extending into the trunk down to the tail.
DietLargely herbivorousCarnivore 
Attack and defense mechanismBares teeth and charges at threat. Bites and stomps.Ambush and surprise attack. Bites. 

The Key Differences Between a Hippo and a Saltwater Crocodile

Just looking at the animals, the difference between the hippo and the saltwater crocodile is clear. The hippo is a mammal, while the saltwater crocodile is a reptile; this influences their morphology, social behavior, and strength. The hippo belongs to the Hippopotamidae family and is a closer relative to the pig, whale, and dolphin. The crocodile, however, belongs to the Crocodylidae family and is closely related to the alligator and the gharial

Let’s address their differences below one at a time.

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile: Size 

Hippo Attack
Weighing as much as 9,000 pounds, the hippo weighs at least twice as much as the saltwater crocodile.

©Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock.com

The hippo is quite a humongous animal, weighing between 2,200lbs to 9,900lbs and having a length between 6.5ft 16.5 ft. On the other hand, the crocodile is significantly small compared to the hippo. It weighs between 440lbs to 2,200lbs and is between 5.5ft – 23ft in length – this would mean that at its maximum weight, the crocodile still doesn’t weigh more than the hippo.

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile: Appearance 

Strongest animal bite – saltwater crocodile
The largest living reptile documented by science, the saltwater crocodile ambushes its prey before drowning it or swallowing it whole.

©Pius Rino Pungkiawan/Shutterstock.com

The hippopotamus has a humongous body consisting of an enormous head, a large trunk area, and a short tail carried by four stumpy legs. On the other hand, the saltwater crocodile has the epic reptilian look: a head that’s linked up with the rest of its body and tail. The legs are webbed, which lets it move between land and water.

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile: Habitat

The hippo lives on both land and water, although its feeding and active interactions happen on the ground. It has skin with no pores, thus the reason for loving water so much. Its name translates to sea-horse in Greek, and this is justified as the hippo spends up to 16 hours a day in shallow waters where it can submerge itself to cool off from the heat of the day. It is easy to find hippos around water bodies like swamps, natural ponds, and lakes. The crocodile, on the contrary, has the leverage of being able to live on land and water, although it’s stronger in the water. You can find these salties in environments similar to that of the hippo. 

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile: Social Behavior 

Hippos are very social animals that live in groups called pods, schools, bloats, pods, or sieges. They can be between 10 to 200 hippos in one group. A dominant male always leads the school and protects it from intruding bulls, while other males are allowed to be in the school as long as they do not try to mate during the heating season. Hippos are quite territorial and would likely attack if they feel threatened in their territory. 

On the other hand, saltwater crocodiles are born to be terrible loners. Unlike other species of crocodiles that share food and space with their kind, the salt croc would rather not see its kind, particularly males. They are open to accommodating females but will fight off other male competitors at the slightest chance. Even the female salties become intolerant of each other during the mating season and fight for dominance. Aside from the mother croc and her young, there is no sign of anything social about the saltwater crocodile.

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile: Diet

Hippos are largely herbivores that eat plants and fruits.

©Frank Wouters, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Although the hippo has canines and incisors that are huge and sharp, they are majorly herbivores. They feed on plants and fruits that they find during their night scavenging and get all they need for their health and well-being. Surprisingly, hippos can store food in their stomach compartments and go without food for three weeks when there is no food. The saltwater crocodile, on the other hand, is a full-fledged carnivore that loves to hunt for prey in the dark of night.

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile: Attack Methodology and Defense Mechanism

The hippo doesn’t hunt for prey but only fights when fellow hippos or other animals threaten its territory. Their large canines and incisors are built for defense and become very effective when they need to attack or defend themselves or their territory. Hippos have a bite force of 1,800 PSI. Once they feel threatened, they charge at the threat with their weight. If need be, they will bite to inflict injury on their opponent. Their bite can be fatal as it can take off a significant ton of flesh. The crocodile, on the contrary, is unapologetically a predator, and it depends on its razor-sharp teeth during hunting. Its ambush and surprise attack can be fatal as its bite force can be up to 3700 PSI.

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile: Danger To Humans

The hippo and saltwater crocodile are deadly to humans as they are animals that are territorial by nature. This means that if any human crosses their paths, these wild animals can be aggressive and dangerous. The hippo is big enough to attack a human, and sadly, they are deadly to humans both on land and in the water.

Hippo vs. Saltwater Crocodile crocodile: Who Would Win in a Fight?

The hippo will win any day, anytime, with all things being equal. The hippo is at least twice the size of the saltwater crocodile and has teeth that are enormous and more deadly. The only thing the saltwater crocodile can do is plague the hippo at its feet. Since the hippo is taller than the saltwater crocodile, it could pick it up with its teeth, bite, stomp and fling the crocodile. A few repeats of this, and the crocodile is already dead. While the crocodile can launch a surprise attack in the water, the hippo will likely win in a fight.

The Featured Image

Deadliest Animal in the World: Hippopotamuses
An aggressive hippo male (Hippopotamus amphibius) attacking the car of tourists. Huge hippo males intimidate their opponent with mock charges.
© PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock.com

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