During a visit to my local aquarium, I watched as the keepers tossed cabbages to the hippos. They opened their mouths and easily crunched an entire head of cabbage as if it were a potato chip. They seemed docile and even lazy.
Later, we visited the sharks and watched them glide effortlessly through the saltwater tank, silent and deadly. It is hard to imagine the two meeting up in the wild waters of the earth, but what if they did?
In fact, it is entirely feasible that a bull shark could encounter a hippo off the coast of Africa. Bull sharks can easily adapt to fresh water, where hippos reside. Sharks are both silent and deadly, while hippos, though they seem bumbling and slow, are highly aggressive, fast, and deadly.
On the other hand, if you were to pitch a great white shark against a hippopotamus, who would win? Of course, they wouldn’t be likely to meet up in the wild, but what if they did? Let’s take a look.
Shark Vs. Hippo Comparison
|Great White Shark
|15 to 16 feet
|10 to 16 feet
|200 – 570 lbs
|Up to 5000 pounds
|Up to 6000 pounds
|Number of Teeth
|2 feet wide; 4 to 5 feet wide when open
|Head butt, then attack
|Can trample, gore, throw, or bite
|Speed and bite
|Extremely high levels of testosterone and aggression
|Extraordinarily territorial and has a very tough hide lives in groups
|Camouflage coloring and speed. May hunt with a partner or even a group.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Sharks and Hippos
Bull sharks are highly adaptable and can live in either fresh or salt water. They aren’t the largest sharks on the planet, but they have the most teeth. They can easily grow 350 teeth or more! In addition, bull sharks have incredibly high levels of testosterone, making them some of the most aggressive animals on the planet. They’ll swim at 25 mph and forcefully headbutt their prey to figure out what they’re dealing with. Then they grip their prey with their many rows of teeth and a bite force of over 1300 PSI. Then, they swallow their prey whole.
Great White Sharks are even larger than bull sharks, growing up to 15 or 16 feet long. They have rows of teeth – up to 300! Their teeth can move inside their mouths, so they can grip and rip their prey.
Great White Sharks are highly predatorial and will even eat other sharks while still in the womb. They will make a torpedo-style attack at up to 35 mph on their prey, slicing and dicing into the flesh.
Obviously, neither shark can run on land.
On the other hand, hippos don’t look like they could be fast, but they sure are. While they can only swim at about 5 mph, they can run at a massively fast 25mph. In addition, a hippo may look tame, but they are incredibly aggressive. If an intruder wanders into their territory, an angry hippo will attack and demolish their prey. They can trample, gore, throw, and bite their prey to death.
Hippos are larger, stronger, and have larger mouths than either sharks.
Are Sharks and Hippos Intelligent?
Hippos are smart and can learn to identify each other. They live together in groups and put their waste in a communal waste pile. They can identify their fellow hippos by the scent of their waste!
In captivity, hippos can learn to play, earn treats, and stand still to get their teeth brushed.
On the other hand, sharks have the intelligence to hunt in groups, luring an animal into their midst so another shark can catch it. In addition, they’ve been known to play with small animals, tossing them in the air or dragging them underwater only to let them go.
How Fast Are Sharks and Hippos
Hippos aren’t very fast in the water at a mere 5mph. Bull sharks swim at about 25mph, while great whites can hit speeds up to 35 mph. What’s more, great whites are highly camouflaged and extremely stealthy. It isn’t unusual for them to sneak up on their prey and devour them before they even know what hit them.
Either shark could easily outswim the hippopotamus, but a hippo could clearly outrun any shark!
Hippos have the strongest bite force of all mammals, while Great White Sharks have the strongest bite of all. But which is stronger? A Great White Shark has a bite force of 4,000 PSI, while a hippo has a bite force of only 1800 PSI. A GWS also has a movable jaw to allow for larger bites, but a hippo has a massive jaw and can open its mouth up to 4 or 5 feet wide!
Although a Great White Shark has an incredibly strong bite, the hippo has exceptionally tough skin. A bull shark probably couldn’t bite through the hippo’s tough hide, but a Great White Shark possibly could.
However, if the hippo could get either shark in its big wide mouth, it could easily crush it with its strong teeth.
Size: Who Is Bigger?
The bull shark is considerably smaller than either a Great White Shark or a hippo. But the Great White is nearly as large as the hippo, making it a much more formidable foe. A typical hippo may be 10 to 16 feet long, while a giant Great White Shark can be 15 or 16 feet long.
A bull shark might be a measly 50o pounds, while a Great White Shark could be 5000! Hippos can grow to a whopping 6,000 pounds, and the largest hippo on record hit a massive 9000 plus pounds.
It’s entirely possible that in a fight, the GWS and the hippo could be the same size and weight. So a hippo probably doesn’t have much size advantage over a great white shark.
A bull shark will typically hunt alone. First, it will swim full speed at its prey, bumping it with its nose. Then, if it likes what it finds, it will attack, using its rows of teeth to grip its prey before it swallows it whole.
A bull shark might try to attack a lone hippo, especially if it is injured and bleeding. First, it would swim as fast and hard as it could, headbutting the hippo. Next, it might go for the tail, but that wouldn’t do lethal damage to the hippo. If it went for the leg, it might still have trouble biting through that thick hide.
On the other hand, a great white shark is highly camouflaged. If it determined there was a wounded hippo, it might use another shark to chase it out into open water. The hippo wouldn’t be able to swim. It would actually walk on the bottom of the river or ocean. The shark would attack simultaneously alongside of another shark, ripping into the hippo and potentially tearing off chunks of flesh until it killed the hippo.
On the other hand, hippos tend to live in groups in shallow water. So if the bull shark attacked the hippo, it would simply need to open its mouth and bite down on the shark, crushing it to death instantly.
If a great white shark attacked a hippo, it would likely be in a group of hippos. They would attack as soon as they sensed an intruder into their territory, potentially together.
The hippos could gore the shark as it approached. They could crush it with their teeth and strong jaws.
In Shark vs. Hippo, who would win?
When it comes right down to it, it would be a rare thing for a shark to encounter a hippo. A bull shark is the only shark that might meet up with a hippo in real life. Likely, a bull shark would be smart enough not to attack unless the hippo was wounded or alone.
However, a bull shark would be no match for a hippo. Its sheer size and tough hide would be enough to protect it from the much smaller shark. Furthermore, since a bull shark swallows its prey whole, it could never swallow something the size of a hippo.
Hippo versus great white shark is a much tougher question, however. And while they probably wouldn’t meet up for real, in a virtual match between those two giant beasts, it would be a tough call!
The hippo has the strongest bite force of all mammals, while the Great White Shark has the strongest bite force of all living animals. That being said, a Great White Shark could probably penetrate the tough hide of even the largest hippo. And with its forceful jaws, a hippo could probably crush the life force out of a Great White Shark.
If a hippo found itself in deep waters, the Great White Shark could easily take it down. But if a Great White tried to attack in the shallow waters of a hippo habitat, the hippo – and its buddies – could easily destroy it.
But a hippo’s best chance at defeating any shark is on land. It could trample, gore, toss, or even crush a defenseless shark on land. Or it could simply run away.