Watch A Mega Hippo Wander Into Lion Territory And Instantly Regret It

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: August 30, 2023
© Jurgens Potgieter/
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Key Points

  • A young, large hippopotamus strays away from the water and from the other hippos.
  • Adult elephants and hippos are very rarely hunted by lions.
  • Lions are stalk and ambush predators so this behavior is typical. A male lion is large enough to take on a small hippo.

If you are struggling with the concept of an ‘opportunistic predator’ – watching this may help to explain things! It shows what is probably a young but nevertheless, large hippopotamus straying away from the water and from the other hippos. It presents this male lion with the perfect opportunity to try out his predatory skills to great effect. The encounter starts with the lion racing towards the hippo and then having to slow down rapidly as he realizes that speed is not one of the skills that are necessary here. He then relies on brute force and some targeted bites to secure his meal. As the video at the bottom of this page shows, lions can be very ambitious in their choice of prey.

What Do African Lions Normally Eat?

Lion showing teeth
Lions are opportunistic and generalist carnivores

©Nejron Photo/

As generalist carnivores, lions are willing to eat a wide range of prey – probably more than 40 species. They eat seasonally and will basically eat whatever is available at the time in that particular location. Having said that, many prides focus on two or three prey species that are found in larger numbers in their habitat.

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For most lions, the main part of their diet is made up of large ungulates (animals with hooves). The larger the animal, the more food there is to go around which is important because the kill will be shared by other members of the pride. Lions are willing to take down ungulates of twice their own weight. Therefore, African buffalo, blue wildebeest, zebra, and Thompson’s gazelle are popular targets. Juvenile elephants and, as we see here, juvenile hippos are also considered prey. Adult elephants and hippos are very rarely hunted by lions.

Between larger kills, lions supplement their diet with smaller animals. This could be porcupines, rodents, birds, fish, reptiles, or even insects.

Is This Normal Behavior For A Lion?

Lions are ambush predators and this is typical behavior.

©keith hudson/

Lions are stalk-and-ambush predators so this behavior is typical. A male lion is large enough to take on a small hippo. Once the target is within striking distance, the lion lunges. You can see the typical attack behavior in this clip. Lions attack the rump or shoulders of prey by grabbing with their claws. The big cat holds on whilst biting the prey and trying to get it onto the ground. This happens quite quickly for the hippo in this clip.

The lion then bites the throat, holding on for up to 10 minutes if necessary, to crush the trachea and cause suffocation. It’s not an easy watch but it shows the skills of the lion to perfection!

Take A Look At The Footage Below! 

How Large Are Lions Compared to Hippos?

Male lions, in general, are smaller than adult hippos. The weight of a lion ranges from 330 to 550 pounds, its height varies from 3.5 to 4 feet, and its body length averages 5.6 to 8.2 feet.

The weight of a hippo is many times more at 3,000 to 4,500 pounds on average. Its height is 4.5 to 5 feet, and its length averages 9.8 to 16.5 feet.  

A lion would usually have a very difficult time toppling a hippo because of the latter’s extreme advantage in size, coupled with its aggressive nature. In the case of the hippo in the video, it appears to be a smaller one, possibly a youth, and the lion is able to take it down without too much exertion. 

The Featured Image

Male Lion
Male Lion
© Jurgens Potgieter/

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About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

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