This Hippo Makes It Clear That Lions Are Not Welcome on Its Patch of River

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Written by Sharon Parry

Published: February 18, 2024

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Huge hippo charging at three lion brothers in the evening light. Wild animals in the nature habitat. Lions fight against a hippo.
© PhotocechCZ/

Having watched this clip, you will be left in no doubt about the respect that lions have for hippos. Despite the fact that they are supposedly the apex predators in their ecosystem,  these lions do not hang around when they see a hippo emerging from the water. They have clearly learned that hippos have no patience with anybody invading their patch of the river. They also seem to know that hippos are not an animal that you want to get into a confrontation with! Let’s find out more about hippo behavior and why lions may be so scared of them.

Where Do Hippos Normally Live?

Hippos are a native species of sub-Saharan Africa. You will find them in many African countries, including Angola, Namibia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe. They are mainly found in estuaries and low sections of rivers. However, more recently, they have been found in reservoirs! Hippos are even found in rainforests, but only near large rivers. They spend most of their time near water habitats, but in the rainy season, they can be seen wandering further away. Water is essential for a hippo’s health and happiness. They need access to deep water, muddy wallows, and nearby grasslands where they forage.

How Do Hippos Normally Behave?

Strongest animal bite – hippopotamus Africa, Aggression, Animal, Animal Body Part, Animal Head

Hippos are highly aggressive and unpredictable and often charge other animals or even humans.

© zengin

Hippos spend most of their day submerged in deep water. You can only spot them because their eyes and nostrils are just above the surface. Occasionally, you will find them basking on sandbars, but they are always close to the water. At night, they emerge from the water to graze and they do this for five hours at a time.

For such a cumbersome-looking creature, hippos are surprisingly agile and aggressive. Males, in particular, are very confrontational towards other males and towards animals of other species. Bull hippos are extremely territorial and will attack anything that encroaches on their patch of river – including hippo calves. They don’t seem to feel so strongly about patches of land. The defense of their territory is connected with mating rights rather than the right to forage. A mature bull could control a length of river up to 550 yards long or an entire lake shore. Lions are considered an enemy by hippos, because the big cats have been known to take hippo calves. Occasionally, lions will attack an adult hippo. This individual was showing who was boss, and the lions had no intention of taking him on!

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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