What Is A Hippos Bite Force?

Written by Emilio Brown
Published: November 22, 2021


The king of the jungle is the lion, but hippos take the throne for the king of the waters in Africa! Having huge cheeks and chubby bodies some may see them as cute, but hippos are one of Africa’s most ferocious animals. Yet, with their incredible size and massive tusks, you might wonder just how strong a hippo’s bite force is. Let’s dig in!

How Big Are Hippos?

Hippopotamus belongs to the Hippopotamidae family, with the only other member being the pygmy hippo. The common hippo is the third-largest land animal in the world, with some weighing up to 6,000 lbs (and just wait for the largest ever hippo weight which we’ll describe shortly)! The elephant is the largest land animal and some species of rhinoceros, like the white rhino are able to grow larger than the common hippo. 

Pygmy hippos are much smaller, only weighing up to 600 lbs, and look like a miniature hippopotamus. Aggressive and territorial they will not hesitate to bite and show off their large teeth if threatened. 

Hippos are native to the Sub-Saharan region of Africa and able to move swiftly on land or water. Hippopotamus translates to River horse in Greek. They spend most of their time submerged in water to avoid the blistering sun. As herbivores, they feed on grass and other vegetation near water banks. 

Hippos also have one of the strongest bite forces in the animal kingdom and the largest mouth of any living land mammal. As one of nature’s most dangerous and powerful forces, let’s take a look at the bite force of a hippo. 

How Strong Is A Hippos Bite?

hippo charging towards camera with mouth open
A hippos jaw has a 1800 PSI bite force.

Hippos are capable of producing around 1,800 psi ( 8,100 Newtons) with their bite. In theory, they have a strong enough bite to snap a crocodile in half if needed. In comparison to other land animals, hippos have the strongest bite of them all. The largest male hippo ever recorded lived in captivity in Germany and weighed 9,900 pounds (4,500) kilograms. This gigantic hippo reached 16 feed long. The larger the hippo, the stronger its bite force, so you can imagine how powerful this hippo’s bite would have been!

Pygmy Hippos are much smaller and produce a less powerful bite. No studies have been specifically to study the Pygmy hippos bite as of yet, but they are very similar to the common hippo. They have a similar skeleton, body shape, and skull. Pygmy hippos are around ¼ smaller than the common hippo. Pygmy hippos are comparable to common hippos and their bite is strong but scales to a smaller size.

Hippos V.S Crocodiles

The Saltwater Crocodile, and Nile crocodile both have larger bite forces than the hippopotamus, with a maximum of around 3,700 psi, though a bite force of up to 5,000 psi(~16,000 Newton’s) could be possible in the largest crocodile specimens. Crocodiles have the strongest bite force in the world, so how can a hippo compete? Even with a less powerful bite force the size of their body and mouths make the hippo the dominant animal. Hippos are territorial and can fit a crocodile’s body in their mouth. 

Crocodiles attacking a hippo is a death sentence, as they are much smaller with tinier mouths. Hippos have thick skin and often live in groups called schools, bloats, or pods, which have around 10 to 30 members. 

How is a Hippos Bite Force Measured?

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

Even with its large mouth, capturing the bite force of a hippo can be quite a challenge. Hippos are extremely aggressive and will charge to attack enemies, putting whoever is measuring their bite in immediate danger. Male hippos have not been tested since they are too aggressive and dangerous. 

Zoologists use a device at the end of a stick to measure the force a hippo produces when it bites. As simple as it sounds, obtaining a clean reading and staying out of danger can be quite difficult. Female hippos, who are less aggressive have been able to be tested and give us an idea of how powerful this animal’s jaws are. 

How big is a hippo’s mouth

Aggressive Animal: Hippopotamus
The common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) or hippo at sunset with open jaws. The mighty hippo threatens everyone around him with an open mouth.

Hippos’ mouths are their most noticeable feature and are around 2 feet wide, fitted with 36 teeth. They are capable of opening their jaws 150 degrees making their mouth around 4 to 5 feet wide when fully open. 

Hippos have large tusks on each jaw as well as canine and incisor teeth. Their teeth can get as long as 3 feet long and their canines are a source of ivory. Hippos have been a victim of poaching and hunting due to the ivory in their mouths. 

What Do Hippos Use Their Powerful Bite For

What Do Hippos Eat
A hippo surrounded by aquatic plants

What does a hippo use its powerful bite for? As herbivores they feed mostly on grass, fruit, and other vegetation, using their back molars to grind down food. Once their molars wear down they will not be able to eat anymore and will eventually perish.

Hippos have a lifespan of around 40 to 50 years. Hippos eat 60 pounds of food a day and will travel up to 6 miles to find food. At night is when they travel most to look for food, avoiding the sun. 

Defense is the main use for their powerful bite for. Large teeth and powerful jaws help defend from the various apex predators in Africa like crocodiles, lions, and even humans. Their aggressive nature, power, and unpredictability make them one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and the world. 

A hippos bite can crush a human instantly, and it is estimated around 500 humans are killed every year by hippos. These extremely aggressive animals are known to attack humans and even their own young. Tourists or locals who wander too close have been known to be attacked and killed. 

Even as herbivores, hippos are deadly and have one of the world’s deadliest bites. Their large mouths, size, and aggressive nature make them one of the world’s deadliest animals. 

Still, they are vulnerable to endangerment and have seen a massive decline, around 7 to 20%  in the population over the years. Poaching and habitat loss have been the main factors. Conserving these animals and learning how they are dangerous are the best ways to protect ourselves and the hippos in the wild.