hippo and a crocodile on a white background
Who's the toughest?

Why Don’t Crocodiles Attack Hippos? Know Your Opponent!

Hippos are huge and intimidating. Also, hippos are highly aggressive and can kill an adult crocodile in minutes. Crocodiles do not attack hippopotamuses because they are afraid of these massive animals.

However, a crocodile may consider hunting and killing the young hippos if their mothers are not around. But, if caught, it results in the gruesome death of the crocodile.

Why do crocodiles fear hippos so much?

There is no doubt that crocodiles fear hippos. This stems not only from the colossal size of these animals but also due to their excessively aggressive nature. 

Even though hippopotamuses have a massive body weight, they can run at 30 km per hour on land. Also, since being semi-aquatic, these animals can move at an 8 km per hour speed when they are in the water.

  • Hippo Speed on Land: 18 mph (30 km)
  • Hippo Speed In Water: 5 mph (8 km)

These animals have 5 cm thick skin on their bodies, weighing more than 1800 kg. These features make it extremely difficult for crocodiles to tackle a fully-grown hippo. Apart from that, the hippos’ knowledge is much stronger than the crocodiles, making the massive reptiles fear the hippopotamus. 

Here are other reasons why crocodiles do not mess with hippos in the wild.

Big And Strong

Hippopotamuses are the second most giant land animals next to elephants. That means the size of a fully-grown hippopotamus is bigger than that of a crocodile. As the hippo weighs between 1800 kg to 2000 kg, a fully grown-up hippo can quickly kill a crocodile just by sitting on them. They can also easily make the crocodiles choke with the help of their unique mouth.

Hippos have powerful jaws. The bite force of a hippopotamus is 1,800 psi, not as much as a crocodile’s but nearly three times more than a lion’s bite at 652 psi, which can still significantly damage a crocodile.

  • Crocodiles 3,700 psi of bite force.
  • A hippo’s bite force is 1,800 psi.
  • Compared to us, our bite force is between 120-160 psi.

Even though these unique animals have 20-inch long sharp canine teeth, they only use them to fight or defend themselves. Hippos can kill a crocodile just by using their vast body mass. 

The crocodile understands very clearly that they are no match to the strength and weight of the hippopotamus. Crocodiles know that the hippo is far stronger and bigger than them. That is why crocodiles do not attack the hippos even if it invades their territory.

That is one of the reasons why you can see images where hippos and crocodiles are sleeping side by side on the river banks. Crocodiles primarily treat hippos with respect because if they do anything to aggravate these animals, they might get killed.


As you may already know, hippos are very aggressive by nature. If they perceive anything as a threat, they do not wait even for a split of second to attack it head-on. Along with that, hippos are very possessive about their territory. 

They do not tolerate anyone who tries to invade their personal space. If any person or animal tries to invade their territory, hippos will not hesitate to attack the trespasser. 

Even though crocodiles are naturally aggressive, their aggression is less when it comes to hippopotamuses. 


Another reason for the crocodiles to fear the hippos is their territorial nature. Hippos are highly territorial animals. They mark their territory by flinging their poop and urine in various directions. Even though hippos are primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, they only live in places where there are water bodies. 

Hippos are semi-aquatic animals and spend much time each day in lakes or rivers. These animals do not have any sweat glands in their bodies. They spend most of their time underwater to keep their body temperature under control. Hippos also use water to keep their skin moist.

Hippos love to hang in the river or lake water as much as crocodiles do. That is why you can see many images of hippos and crocodiles living side-by-side. 

As crocodiles are also kind of territorial animals, they sometimes fight with the hippos to protect their territory. However, in most cases, the crocodile backs down and lets the hippo take over their territory.

Good fighter

Hippos have massive bodies but are still pretty fast on their feet. Even if it seems impossible, hippos can run fast on land and water. 

These enormous animals can run at the speed of 30 km per hour on dry land and move at the speed of 8 km per hour in water. This agility helps these enormous animals fight exceptionally well on the land and in the water. Crocodile is very agile and strong when they go underwater, but they are no match for hippopotamuses.

That is another reason why crocodiles do not attack hippos underwater. They fully know how competent hippos are in fighting, even when fully submerged. Crocodiles also tend to swim away if they spot a hippo underwater.

Do crocodiles attack hippos?

There is no doubt that crocodiles are among some of the strongest animals in the world. It is effortless for crocodiles to kill antelopes and many other bigger animals easily. So, it is pretty surprising why crocodiles never try to attack hippos. 

Crocodiles have been known sometimes to make a mistake and try to attack a hippo. However, in almost all cases, hippos play with the crocodile like a toy. 

If you observe both crocodiles and hippos when they live side by side, you will find many situations when crocodiles could attack the hippos and have the upper hand. But instead, they mainly choose to stay away from these enormous animals as they are well aware of how dangerous they can be. 

Crocodiles do not shy away to hunt and kill baby hippopotamuses if they get a chance. Most of the time, hippo mothers do not leave their babies alone. However, if the mother leaves a baby hippo alone, the crocodiles will not let this opportunity go. Not only the crocodiles, other larger land predators, like the lions, also prey on baby hippos if given a chance.

Why don’t crocodiles eat hippos?

There is a myth that the crocodiles do not attack hippos as they do not eat the meat of the hippopotamus. It is not valid. Given an opportunity, the crocodiles will love to feast on a hippopotamus. 

The hippopotamus is a gigantic animal, and there will be a lot of meat for the crocodile to feast on if they can hunt down one. But, as a crocodile knows that they are no match in strength or power with the hippopotamus, they do not try to take their chances. They do not try to attack a healthy adult hippopotamus as it can be extremely dangerous. The crocodile is only able to feast on weaker hippos or hippo babies.

Do hippos eat crocodiles?

Given their aggressive nature and sharp incisors, you would think a hippo would like a munch on a crocodile. However, hippos are vegetarians and mostly rely on grass or other plants for their food. Even though they have the strength and ability to kill a crocodile, they will never eat one. You can see the hippos chewing on the crocodile in most cases, but they do not consume it.

Do saltwater crocodiles eat a hippopotamus?

There are several types of crocodile species. Among all these species, cold water crocodiles have the most potent bite force. The bite force of the saltwater crocodile is so strong that it can cut a full-grown man in half in a single bite. 

These saltwater crocodiles can hunt adult and healthy hippopotamus. There may be a chance that the saltwater crocodile may give the hippos a good fight, but their chances of winning the fight are not that great. 

The hippopotamus is a powerful animal with massive bodies and ferocious bite forces. You combine all three features and see how easy it is for the hippopotamus to kill even saltwater crocodiles.

But the saltwater crocodile is strong enough to take down any weak or old hippopotamuses. They can also easily keep taking out hippopotamus babies. But even being the most powerful crocodile species, the winning chances will always rest on the massive land animal, the hippo.

Why do hippos chew on crocodiles?

As crocodiles and hippos live side by side in the wild, they have developed somewhat peaceful cohabitation tactics. That is why you can sometimes find crocodiles and hippos playing together. However, in most cases, the crocodiles are uninterested participants in this play. Most of the time, they are forced to comply with the wish of the hippopotamus to save their lives.

Even though it is a strange sight, hippos sometimes chew on the tail of a crocodile. This behaviour is nothing but a Juvenile approach, and the younger hippos mostly do it. While doing this behaviour, the hippos are trying to play with the crocodile. 

That is why you will find the younger hippopotamuses chasing the crocodile from time to time. Mostly the crocodiles let the baby hippos chew on their skins. 

As the baby hippos are still teething, this nibbling does not do much harm to the crocodiles.

When the baby hippos are showcasing this kind of behaviour, their mothers often stand behind them to guard their babies. Because even if the crocodile is enduring the antics of the baby hippo, there is still a chance that the crocodile may attack the baby and kill it. 

The crocodiles are extremely afraid of the mother hippopotamuses, and they let the baby play with their tail as long as they can endure it. Things that go above the pain threshold, the crocodile, will try to leave as fast as possible.

Is there a chance when a crocodile can win a battle against a hippo?

Most of the time, the answer is no. If you compare the strengths and weaknesses of the crocodiles and hippopotamuses, you will always find that the hippos have better chances of winning the battle. However, there is a slim chance that a crocodile can get the upper hand in this situation. 

The key is teamwork. A single crocodile is no match to a fully grown adult hippopotamus. However, if the crocodiles work in a team against a single Hippopotamus, the chances are the crocodiles will win the battle. 

That is the only case when the crocodiles can defeat a fully grown healthy hippopotamus in a battle. Other than this, a healthy crocodile can single-handedly kill a weak and old hippopotamus on its own, especially the saltwater crocodile species. 

Sharing is a good thing to do!

Teresa Milne

Teresa is learning zoology and loves to share her knowledge through her articles. She is also a avid binge watcher of wild animal documentary's. Teresa has some pets that she adores two dogs, two cats, and one hamster. She has also studied canine behaviour and canine nutrition.