Watch This Heavyweight Showdown as Two Hippos Fight Over a Female

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Written by Sharon Parry

Published: February 25, 2024

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Two huge hippos fighting with each other in the pond, Masai Mara

Male hippos face intense competition for mating rights with local females in a particular section of a river. In this fascinating clip, we see two large males squaring up to each other. These fights are not short-lived – they can go on for hours. They are so vicious that hippos can die as a result of them. Using their forward-pointing tusks, they stab at each other’s faces. Their mouths are wide open as they lunge at each other. This particular confrontation ended with a highly effective bite to the head. In this battle, the resident male hippo is victorious and retains the right to mate with the females. That said, it’s only a matter of time before he will be challenged again. There are plenty of young male contenders waiting to take his place.

Do Hippos Normally Fight?

Hippos Fighting in Water

Hippos can get killed during fights.

©jos macouzet/

Hippos are very social animals. They live in groups of up to 100 individuals. Because they are not very active creatures, they spend most of their day resting in their pools of water. At dusk, they move from the water to feed. In fact, most of their activity takes place at night. Once they reach around seven years of age, the males become very competitive. They compete with each other in the way that we see in this clip. They try to display their dominance by yawning, roaring, and even showering each other with dung! Dominant males can be very grumpy and will not tolerate the presence of younger males anywhere near the females. It is not unusual for larger males to seriously injure or even kill younger males during these competitive bouts. The most intense fights take place during the dry season when the lack of water makes living conditions very crowded, and there is less food.

How Do Hippos Normally Behave When Mating?

Because hippos are polygynous, one bull will mate with several females in a social group. Most mating takes place during the dry season between February and August. This means that births take place during the rainy season – which is between October and April.  When they are searching for a mate, the males wander around the group of females, looking for a receptive partner. Courtship rituals culminate in the male pushing the female out of the herd and pursuing her into deeper water. Eventually, he mounts her, but during mating, her head has to be under the water. Experts have not yet discovered why but perhaps this explains why hippos only mate every other year!

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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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