Elephants and hippos are standard animals one sees in the zoo or out in the wild in Africa.
They both have grey-brown bodies and are quite large.
However, while they are similar in many ways, they’re also very different.
Since they’re both separate species, there are quite a few differences between them.
Here’s what you need to know about the differences between an elephant and a hippo.
Hippo Vs. Elephant (What Are The Differences?)
One main difference that is immediately noticeable is the size between an elephant and a hippo.
When observing them on their own, you’d think that both the elephant and the hippo were quite large.
When comparing them side by side, however, it’s obvious that the elephant is a lot bigger than the hippo.
The average weight of an elephant is 6,000 to 12,000 pounds.
As for a hippo, the average weight is 3,000 to 4,000 pounds.
Clearly, even the smallest elephant is still going to weigh more than the heaviest hippo.
While there are always outliers and exceptions, in most cases, the elephant is going to weigh more than a hippo.
In terms of height, the average shoulder height of an elephant is seven feet to 12 feet.
For hippos, the average shoulder height is four feet to five and a half feet.
Again, it’s clear that even the smallest adult elephant is going to be larger than the tallest adult hippo.
The elephant has far more height on them which allows them to tower over most animals in Africa.
A final size comparison to consider is the length.
The average length of an elephant is 18 feet to 21 feet.
The average body length of a hippo is 10.5 feet to 16.5 feet.
Although hippos can be quite long, they don’t quite edge out an elephant.
As such, when comparing the two animals in terms of size, the elephant is far larger than the hippo.
2. Speed And Movement
Speed matters a lot in the African wilds.
It can help an animal stay clear of a predator or give them enough momentum to cause some serious damage.
Concerning elephants and hippos, there’s a slight difference between the top speeds that they can reach.
Elephants can reach speeds anywhere from nine miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.
While many think that elephants are slow because of their large sizes, this isn’t actually the case.
They’re often able to outrun most humans.
Their speed allows them to charge at predators to scare them off or even attack them.
Hippos are faster than one might think as well.
They have an average top speed of 20 to 30 miles per hour.
Clearly, hippos are a bit faster than elephants.
Their smaller stature likely allows them to gain a bit more speed.
That said, they’re rather slow in the water.
The average top speed for hippos in the water is only five miles per hour.
However, compared to most humans, that might still be fast enough to catch a swimmer.
Their standard type of movement is also slightly different.
Elephants are firmly land-based creatures.
Although they like to play in the water, they don’t use it as a means of travel.
They walk on land.
Hippos, on the other hand, are also aquatic in nature.
They move on land, but they primarily prefer to travel by water.
Being able to submerge themselves under the water for long periods allows them to travel relatively safely.
As such, elephants travel by land while hippos travel by land and water.
3. Teeth And Biting Power
Survival in Africa for wildlife usually comes down to offensive capabilities.
One of the offensive traits that many animals have is the size of their teeth and bite power.
Elephants and hippos have very big differences when it comes to their teeth.
Elephants have very small and weak teeth.
They’re herbivores, so they only use their teeth to grind up plants to eat them.
Their tusks are not teeth.
Since they’re herbivores, they haven’t evolved in such a way that requires them to use their teeth for offense or to feed themselves.
As such, elephants don’t use their teeth offensively.
Hippos, on the other hand, have very large teeth.
They have a total of 36 teeth that are all sharp.
Their incisors can grow up to 1.2 feet in length.
Their canines can grow up to 1.5 feet in length.
Because of their large teeth, hippos do use them offensively.
They have a biting power of 1,800 PSI.
Compare this to the human ability to bite no more than 200 PSI, and you can see just how strong they are.
That puts hippos above most felines like tigers and lions but below most alligators and crocodiles.
They even have more biting power than a grizzly bear, which has an average biting power of 1,200 PSI.
Considering the kind of environment that the hippo lives in, it’s understandable why they’d need strong biting power.
They share the waterways with crocodiles and other dangerous predators.
To defend themselves and their territories, they need to be able to bite just as hard.
Besides the sheer biting pressure that they can give, it’s the size of their teeth that’s another factor.
Due to how long they are, a hippo can easily impale its victim, piercing through organs.
Because of this, most river motorists avoid them at all costs.
Hippos have stronger biting power and larger teeth than elephants.
Another integral part of an animal’s ability to stay alive is its ability to sense the world around them.
Higher senses mean that the creature can detect danger at greater distances away.
This allows them to run and get a head start or prepare for a defensive attack.
Elephants and hippos share some of their capabilities for sensing the world around them, but there is one major difference.
Elephants have poor vision.
While they have great hearing and sense of smell, elephants can’t see that well.
Their large ears allow them to listen for approaching danger.
Their trunks enable them to smell food that’s even miles away.
However, when it comes to a silent predator, they won’t be able to spot them until the attack has begun.
Hippos, on the other hand, have great senses.
They have a great sense of smell, although it may not be quite as strong as an elephant’s.
They can also hear well whether they’re on the land or in the water.
Perhaps most importantly is that hippos have great vision.
They’re even able to see well under the water, which is another reason they’re dangerous to encounter.
They have a clear membrane that rests over their eyes.
This enables them to see through the water whereas a human wouldn’t be able to.
They can find you in the water, but you won’t be able to see them.
Since hippos can see, hear, and smell great in both the water and on land, they’re superior to elephants when it comes to senses.
5. Defensive Capabilities
Both the hippo and the elephant have different defensive capabilities that define them.
These defensive capabilities help them fight off predators or scare them off.
How they go about defending themselves is another clear difference between the two animals.
Elephants have tough skin, tusks, and a lot of height and weight that help them defend themselves.
Even if predators can get close, they’re going to have to keep attacking the elephant to do any real damage.
For most predators, it isn’t worth the energy.
Unless the elephant is sick, old, or dying, the sheer toughness of their skin puts most predators off.
Those that still want to attack an elephant then have to contend with their tusks.
Elephants move faster than most expect.
As such, they’re able to use their tusks to either impale or bat their enemies away.
Considering how tough their tusks are, they might even knock the predator unconscious or send them flying away.
Finally, the elephant’s sheer size and weight make it extremely defensible.
They can stomp on enemies and their height ensures that they always have the high ground.
As for hippos, they also have a tough hide.
If a predator wants to take a bite out of a hippo, then they’re going to have to work hard at it.
The problem is that hippos are also very aggressive.
This means that the predator is going to have to try and stay alive while the hippo is attacking it while also trying to pierce through the tough hide of the hippo.
The hippo also has its size and weight to help it during a fight.
It tends to be larger than most predators and its weight helps it pull away from grapples.
However, its fierce and aggressive behavior tends to scare predators away.
The difference between an elephant and a hippo when it comes to their defensive capabilities is that an elephant can charge and use its height to scare away predators while a hippo acts aggressively.
6. Offensive Capabilities
When pushed to attack, both the elephant and hippo use different strategies.
Elephants are usually docile.
They prefer to charge and scare off predators instead of fighting them.
However, if they’re drawn into a fight, then they have a few attributes that they can use.
For one, their tusks are one of their best offensive capabilities.
They can use them to stab, impale, or even just hit away predators.
Their weight also makes them dangerous stompers.
For most creatures, all it takes is one stomp from an elephant to die or suffer critical injuries.
It can also use its head and trunk to either headbutt creatures or tip them over.
When tipped, creatures are momentarily defenseless and allow the elephant or its partners to stomp it to death.
That leads to perhaps the elephant’s most potent offensive capability.
It has incredible intelligence.
Elephants have long memories.
They’re also quite intelligent, which allows them to strategize and work together to overcome a threat.
All these attributes combined make elephants quite dangerous when they’re acting offensively.
Hippos are even more aggressive.
The most potent weapon that a hippo has is its biting power.
Hippos love to either crush their enemies with their teeth or drag them into the water and drown them.
They also use their height and weight to charge their enemies.
This might allow them to knock the enemy down and then drag it into the water.
It might allow them to force the enemy to expose its stomach which the hippo can then tear into with its teeth.
Due to the length and sharpness of their teeth, hippos rely on them for their best offensive strategy.
The difference between elephants and hippos when it comes to offensive capabilities is that elephants use their intelligence and tusks in a fight while hippos go for a bite.
7. Predatory Behavior
Elephants and hippos are also vastly different when it comes to their predatory behaviors.
For one, elephants are not predatory.
They’re quite docile, which means they’re relatively friendly to most creatures that encounter them.
That said, they will attack those they deem threatening.
They usually give warnings first, but if the encroachers continue to threaten them, then they will viciously attack.
Since elephants tend to live in herds or families, you can expect everyone to participate in the attack.
Hippos, on the other hand, do display predatory behaviors.
They’re ambush predators, which means they wait until the perfect opportunity to strike.
This usually means that they leave their heads above the water and just remain still.
Sometimes, it’s even difficult to spot their heads if they decide to keep themselves mostly submerged.
As soon as something nears them, they charge and attack it.
That’s why hippo attacks can be so dangerous.
You can run into a hippo and not even realize it until it’s too late.
The difference between their predatory behaviors is that elephants only attack when threatened and hippos are actual ambush predators.
Elephants and hippos also have slight differences in their diets.
Elephants stick to an herbivorous diet.
They eat leaves, fruits, grasses, roots, and even tree bark.
They’ll use their trunks and tusks to dig up the ground to get access to roots under it.
They spend most of their time grazing.
Elephants eat up to 300 pounds of food a day.
Hippos are also herbivores, but they do sometimes adopt an omnivorous diet.
Normally, hippos stick to their herbivorous diets.
They’ll eat grasses, aquatic grasses, flowers, and other types of plants around the water.
If they fight off an enemy, then they might also eat the body afterward.
Their primary diet, however, is grass.
They eat up to 80 pounds of food a day.
Since grass and other plant life can sometimes be hard to come by, hippos can store food in their stomachs for three weeks.
This enables them to continue to travel until they’re able to find a new food source.
Hippos also tend to eat food at night.
They either sleep during the day or travel to look for new food sources.
While both elephants and hippos eat herbivorous diets, hippos do sometimes eat meat.
Hippo Vs. Elephant: Who Would Win A Fight?
Considering that both the hippo and elephant live in the same areas of Africa, they do sometimes come across each other.
When they do, fights sometimes break out.
If you’re wondering who would win in the fight, it’s important to compare their defensive and offensive capabilities.
1. Offensive Capabilities
When it comes to their offensive capabilities, the elephant’s weight has an advantage.
In the animal world, height and weight matter.
Hippos, however, have long teeth with a lot of biting power.
Even though the elephant has tough skin, a hippo can likely pierce it with enough tries.
That said, the hippo is going to have to stay away from the elephant’s stomping feet and swinging tusks.
Although hippos are fast, it’s likely not as fast as the elephant’s swinging head.
As soon as the hippo draws close enough to the elephant, then the elephant can stomp it.
Although hippos are large, they’re still small enough to get stomped on.
One stomp might be enough to scare the hippo away if it does not kill it.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is that the hippo has a shorter range.
Its main method of attack is with its teeth.
Elephants have better range thanks to their tusks.
When it comes to a close-quarters fight, they have their stomping feet to rely on.
2. Defensive Capabilities
How each animal defends itself also matters in determining which would win in a fight.
Both have tough skin.
That means the elephant might find it difficult to stab a hippo with its tusks.
A hippo might find it difficult to pierce the elephant with its teeth.
This is a problem for the hippo since that’s its only real defense.
It can act aggressively towards the elephant, however, and since elephants are docile in nature, it might back off.
The exception is if the hippo is threatening the elephant’s family.
As for an elephant’s defense, it has a few things at its disposal.
Its tusks can bat away the hippo.
Its sheer size might also intimidate the hippo.
Finally, the elephant can trumpet loudly which might startle the hippo away.
When it comes to defensive capabilities, the elephant has a few more tools in its trunk.
3. The Winner
Based on the offensive and defensive capabilities that elephants and hippos have, it’s likely that the elephant is going to be the winner in a fight.
Its tough hide, intelligence, and the ability to bat things away with its tusks and crush things through stomping give it an edge.
There are many differences between an elephant and a hippo despite both creatures being large and living in the same environment.
In a fight, however, the elephant would likely come out the winner.