Polar Bear vs Hippo: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Heather Ross
Updated: March 7, 2023
© Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock.com
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Few semi-aquatic mammals strike as much fear into the minds of humans as the hippopotamus. Hippos are estimated to be responsible for about 500 deaths per year throughout Africa. These massive, aggressive animals can kill humans with ease. Polar bears are another powerful semi-aquatic creatures that thankfully live far enough away that they rarely encounter humans. These bears are not the cute and cuddly creatures they’re portrayed as; they’re very adept killers. So, how would a polar bear vs hippo fight end? We’re going to show you.  

Comparing a Polar Bear and a Hippo

Hippos have the size advantage.

©A-Z-Animals.com

Polar BearHippo
SizeWeight: 330lbs – 1,300lbs Height: 3.5ft – 5ft at the shoulder
Length: 6ft – 8.3ft
Weight: 2,200lbs – 9,900lbs Height: 4ft – 5.5ft at shoulder Length: 6.5ft – 16.5 ft.
Speed and Movement Type– 25 mph
– Gallops when sprinting
– 6 mph swimming
– Top speed of 20 mph- 30mph
– Trot
– 5 mph in the water
Defenses– Large size – Growling threat display will frighten animals
– Thick, insulated fur and skin
– Capable of swimming in frigid waters
– Thick skin
– Fierce aggression
– Size and weight  
Offensive Capabilities– Sharp, curved claws measuring about 4 inches are used to grasp – Powerful, 1,200PSI bite1,800PSI bite power
-36 sharp teeth
– Incisors up to 1.2ft, canines up to 1.5ft
– Charging with weight
Predatory Behavior– Ambush predator for seals, waiting on the ice above their surfacing holes– Ambush hunter that only leaves head above water and then attacks

What Are Key Differences Between a Polar Bear and a Hippo?

hippo charging towards camera with mouth open
A hippo’s jaw has a powerful bite force and teeth over 1ft long.

©PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock.com

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The greatest differences between a polar bear and a hippo are their morphology and size. Polar bears are caniform mammals with a thick coat of fur that can weigh up to 1,300lbs on average, stand up to 5ft at the shoulder, and grow 8.3ft long. Hippos are massive, mostly hairless mammals with a pig-like body that weighs up to 9,900lbs, stand 5.5ft at the shoulder, and measure up to 16.5ft long.

The polar bear and hippo are very powerful, distinct animals, and we need to go beyond their differences to figure out which of them is deadlier.

What Are the Key Factors in a Fight Between a Polar Bear and a Hippo?

polar bears in arctic water
Polar bears and hippos would clash using raw power, speed, and intelligence.

©iStock.com/avstraliavasin

In a battle between the heavyweight polar bear and hippo, we need to look at the size, offensive power, and defense. Those major factors will help us determine which animal is capable of dealing fatal damage to the other creature. We’ll also have to look at concepts like speed and the way these animals approach prey in a combat scenario.

By looking at the five factors we’ve outlined and figuring out which one has advantages in those qualities, we’ll know which animal has what it takes to win this fight.  

Polar Bear vs Hippo: Size

Hippos are bigger than polar bears by every measure. Hippos weigh up to 9,900lbs, but polar bears only weigh about 1,300lbs, and the largest polar bear ever weighed just over 2,000lbs. Also, hippos can stand 5.5ft at the shoulder and measure up to 16ft long from end to end.

Meanwhile, polar bears stand between 3.5ft and 5ft at the shoulder and measure about 8.3ft at their utmost.

Hippos have the size advantage in this fight.

Polar Bear vs Hippo: Speed and Movement

Hippos are faster than polar bears. A polar bear can run up to 25 mph and swim at 6 mph. Hippos can reach top speeds of 30 mph on land and 5 mph in the water. This is not a huge speed difference.

Hippos have the speed advantage over polar bears.  

Polar Bear vs Hippo: Defenses

Hippos have similar yet superior defenses to polar bears.  Hippos have skin that is about 2 inches thick, along with blubbers that protect them from attacks. These animals are regularly attacked by lions, and they can simply shrug off these big cats a lot of the time and keep moving. Simply put, it’s hard to get a bite in on such a rotund creature!

Hippos are also highly aggressive animals that can easily scare off others. Moreover, it’s very hard to bring them to the ground because they are so massive.

Polar bears are also large and have a frightening threat display. They have insulated fur and thick skin. Their fur, skin, and fat layers can be up to 4 inches thick!

Hippos have the advantage in terms of defenses.

Polar Bear vs Hippo: Offensive Capabilities

Hippos are more powerful than polar bears. Polar bears have sharp, curved 4-inch claws that they can use to grab their prey and hold it in place while delivering a 1,200PSI bite. That is an incredibly powerful chomp that can help them break bones and remove the flesh from other animals.

Hippos have an even more powerful bite at 1,800PSI. Their teeth aren’t there to rip flesh, though. They puncture and smash their food with teeth that measure up to 1.5ft long. They’re also not afraid to bowl over their enemies and trample them with their weight.

Hippos have the offensive advantage in this case.  

Polar Bear vs Hippo: Predatory Behaviors

Both polar bears and hippos are ambush predators when hunting. Polar bears wait for seals above holes in the ice. Once the seal appears, the polar bear grasps the creature with its claws and starts biting it to death. It’s a messy, brutal event.

Hippos are also ambushing predators that will often wait for animals to come to the water for a drink before striking. In a flash, they lunge forth and tear their prey asunder. However, hippos are primarily herbivorous.

Polar bears are effective, intelligent predators, and they have the advantage in this category.  

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Polar Bear and a Hippo?

Strongest animal bite – hippopotamus
Hippos are highly aggressive, unpredictable and often charge other animals or even humans.

©iStock.com/mesut zengin

A hippo would win a fight against a polar bear. The hippo is larger, stronger, has better offensive powers and a defense that would allow it to last longer in a battle than a polar bear.

Sure, the polar bear could use its claws to cut the hippo to ribbons, but it would take some time and power to cut through all that flesh and fat. There’s no way that the hippo, one of the most powerful, aggressive animals in the world, sits there and takes that damage. Instead, the hippo needs one or two bites to incapacitate the polar bear.

Its massive teeth would penetrate the bear’s fur and skin, breaking bones and ripping into organs. In this rare case, speed on land would only matter at the beginning of the fight. Even if the animals charged at each other to start the battle, a distinct possibility, the hippo could slam into the polar bear and end the fight very fast.

The polar bear, while deadly, doesn’t have a chance in a fight against a hippo.

What Animal Can Defeat a Hippo?

One-on-one, there are not many animals that can take down a hippo. In the wild, most hippos that are killed by other animals fall to groups of animals that work in tandem to defeat the beasts. And even then, all of them will not leave the battle without some major injuries!

If there is one animal that could bring down a full-grown hippo in a fight, it is an adult elephant. Elephants have the size and strength advantage over the hippo, and their tusks give them superior reach. Match that with a roaring charge and there is nothing that will not stop one!

The only way that a hippo might have a chance is if one ambushed an elephant in or near water. If the hippo was somehow able to catch an elephant off guard and trip it into the water, it might be game over. While elephants spend time in water, they are not as adjusted to aquatic life as the hippo is.

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The Featured Image

Can Bears Swim
Polar bear swimming underwater. Polar bears can swim for long distances and steadily for many hours to get from one piece of ice to another.
© Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

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