Hippo Hunting
Hunting Hippos

Hippo Hunting In Zimbabwe

Hippo hunting makes an exciting addition to any hunt package. Hippopotamus are dangerous both in the water and on land if aggravated and will defend themselves aggressively.

About The Common Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus amphibius, or Common Hippopotamus, is a very large, barrel-shaped mammal with hooves. They are indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa and are one of only two species of Hippopotamidae on Earth.

Hippo can be found at almost any watering hole – but by far the best and most scenic place to hunt these large beasts is on Lake Kariba.

The other being the Pygmy Hippopotamus found mainly in West Africa. The Common Hippopotamus is the only species found in Zimbabwe.

The word hippopotamus is an adaptation of the Ancient Greek word ἱπποπόταμος. This translates into “river horse”.

These animals are classified as mammals. as the females or cows, nurse their young with milk from mammary glands.

Even though they shares many physical characteristics with pigs, they share no dna history. They are more closely related to whales and dolphins.

Hippos are extremely large. They are the heaviest hoofed animal in the world. In terms of size, they trail behind only the elephant and rhinoceros. Males, or bulls, average 1.5 tonnes (1500kg) while the females average 1.3 tonnes (1300kg). Weights can be higher though, especially in the males.

The Common Hippopotamus

Hippos can grow up to 16.5 feet (5 meters) in length and stand up to 5 feet (1.6 meters) at the shoulder. In the wild their life expectancy is about 30 years, but can survive for as long as 50 years. In captivity, they can easily reach 50 years.

These animals are considered herbivores, even though there is film evidence of some feeding on carrion. However, hippos filmed eating meat are thought to be suffering from nutritional stress. Their digestive systems are not designed to process this form of protein.

Hippos can spend as much as 16 hours a day in the water. Their diet is almost exclusively grass with small amounts of aquatic vegetation. Feeding takes place out of the water at night.

They can eat about 35kg (80 pounds) of grass every day, traveling as much as 10km to do so. If food is scarce, they can store food in their stomachs and ‘diet’ for as long as 3 weeks.

Their favorite habitats are shallow rivers, dams or lakes with a good supply of grass nearby.

For an animal that spends a large part of every day in the water, it may surprise you to know that hippos cannot swim. They cannot float either, but the baby calves are buoyant. They actually bounce or walk along the river, dam or lake bed even when totally submerged. They can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes underwater.

Fun factbreathing in hippos is completely subconscious. If asleep while submerged they will automatically surface to breathe without waking.

Their eyes, ears, and nostrils all positioned on top of their heads. This means that they can hide their huge bodies and much of their heads while in the water.

Hippos use the water to support their huge body weight. They also use it to protect their thick, but vulnerable skin from the harsh sunlight in Africa.

The water is not enough protection from the sun though. By secreting a thick blood-like substance they coats their hairless hides. This substance is more than a sunscreen since it also has anti-bacterial properties.

Hippos Suntanning

Hippopotamus eyesight is rather poor but not as poor as the rhino. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell.

Like crocodiles, they have a transparent membrane that protects their eyes underwater. They can also close their nostrils when submerged.

The most distinctive feature is its large mouth with enlarged lower canines and incisors. In males, the lower canines can reach up to 50cm in length while the lower incisors can reach up to 40cm.

These ‘tusks’ play no part in feeding but are used in combat. This is usually while protecting their territory from other males.

Hippopotami incisors and canines are a source of ivory. They are big enough to be carved but do not share the same commercial value as elephant tusks. However, some parts of Africa have seen poaching for their teeth.

Hippo Behaviour

Hippos are considered the most dangerous large land mammal. Human fatalities reach an estimated 500 people a year in Africa according to the BBC.

Human and hippo conflicts have occurred out of the water while these ungulates are feeding. This is usually because they will raid farmland and crops.

However, the majority of attacks occur in the water where they aggressively seek to protect their territories.

For such a large animal they move surprisingly quickly. On land, they can outrun humans with a top speed of about 30km/h (19mph), but only for short distances.

In water, they can reach speeds of 8km/h. They do this by either running along the river, dam or lake bed in shallow water. Or by porpoising up and down in deeper water. Their feet are also webbed which aids in their movement through the water.

Being social creatures they are found in groups of 30 individuals. These groups consist of a dominant male with females and calves and possibly a few young bulls. Groups as large as 200 have been seen. Probably due to their ancient relation to whales and dolphins, groups of hippos are also called a pod. Additionally, they are known as a herd, bloat or dale.

Both reproduction and birth occur in the water. Females will separate themselves from the pod for about 10 to 14 days to give birth.Fighting Hippos

Males are very territorial and will aggressively protect their territories. These territories are marked by the flinging of their dung using the rotating action of their tails. Once these giants leave the water to feed they are no longer territorial.

Hippos coexist happily with other animals, such as crocodiles and lions. They do not kill unless they are defending territory or they’re young. But, both lions and crocodiles will prey upon the calves if given the opportunity.

Threats Against The Hippo

Lion and crocodile attacks have been witnessed against mature females. Attacks against adult males are very rare. Only if they are injured or feeble with age or illness will they be harassed.

Sadly for an animal that once ranged from the Nile delta to the Cape, hippo populations are on the decline. It is currently listed as vulnerable. In most African countries, including Zimbabwe, populations are limited to protected areas.

The following reasons for hunting have all played their part in placing increased pressure on the hippopotamus.

In Zimbabwe, areas with good populations are:

Hippo Hunting

Hippo hunts are conducted at Lake Kariba as this is the most popular and closest destination from any of our hunting areas. It is an easy trip and can be added to your itinerary very easily.

Hippo Hunting At Lake Kariba

Hippopotami are hunted year-round in Zimbabwe as they are not endangered.  Hunts do require that a professional hunter (PH) with a dangerous game hunting license be in attendance.

Hippos are hunted both in the water and out. These animals are very large, aggressive and unpredictable, and should not be under-estimated.

A large-bore rifle with good accuracy is recommended. The minimum legal caliber required is 375.

There are two methods to hunt hippo.

Both methods are difficult, although hunting a hippo on land is the more dangerous option.

Generally, the bull is the trophy animal. Identifying the male of the species in the water can be a task, they are identifiable by:

When going hippo hunting, accuracy is the name of the game. This is not an animal you want to wound – in or out of the water.

For a hunt combo at Lake Kariba you can combine a crocodile hunt with your hippo hunt. These two unusual looking animals will make extremely interesting trophies.

Where To Place Your Shot

Whether the hippo is in the water or out the best shot is a broadside shot between the eye and ear. Quartering to and away shots are not recommended due to the sheer mass of the animal.

Frontal shots in water or out can also be used. The required shot placement is in the triangular area between the eyes and forehead ridge.

Hunting your hippo in water can be done from either a shoreside hide or from a canoe. Stalking is the preferred method when they are feeding out of water. The expected shooting distance is between 20 – 50 yards (18 – 45 meters).

If hunting outside of a hide take care to avoid both Guinea Fowl and the Hadeda Ibis. Their alarm calls will warn hippos of approaching danger. Remember that these animals have very good senses of hearing and smell.

Hunting a Hippo In Water

After shooting a hippo in the water he will sink, but float back to the surface within an hour or so. This is when recovery can be made.

Caution is advised – as where there is a carcass, there are crocodiles.

Hunting Hippos on Land

Hunting Hippo On LandHunting hippo on land is a different matter altogether. The excitement caused by a charging or disgruntled hippo is exhilarating – but extreme caution must be exercised.

A disturbed bull will become very aggressive. Be ready for a charge and use large caliber rifles with solid bullets for this job.

So, all in all, hunting a hippo is good sport and well worth the effort for the enormous trophy.

Booking a hippo hunt with Zimbabwe Hunting Safaris will guarantee you an experience you will remember for a long time.

Can You Eat Hippo?

The simple answer is yes.

Even though the sale of hippo meat is illegal, it does form a part of the African bushmeat trade.

Outside of the bushmeat trade, hippo meat is not generally consumed by humans. It will not be found on your typical restaurant menu. It has been described as mild, with a taste between lamb and beef, but fattier than typical venison.

Like other wild African animals that graze, care must be taken against consuming diseased animals. It has been reported, in at least one case, that the consumption of some of this meat lead to anthrax infection.

Cultural History

Despite being labeled as the most dangerous animal in Africa, hippopotami have a strong representation in both African and Western cultures.

In ancient Egypt, their god Set was depicted as a red hippo.

In a San folktale, they wanted to be assigned to water when the Creator was deciding on habitats for all the creatures. This was refused due to the fear that the hippos would eat all the fish. They pleaded until the Creator agreed. This was on condition they would eat grass instead. They would then fling their dung with their tails so that it could be inspected for fish bones.

In a Ndebele folktale, the hippo ended up hiding in the water out of embarrassment. This was due to the jealousy of a hare that set fire to their long beautiful hair.

In Western culture, hippos have been generally depicted as sources of humor. This is due to their comical rotund appearance. Names such as “Huberta” and “Peter Potamus” may be familiar to some.

A captive-reared hippopotamus in the London Zoo by the name of “Obaysch” even inspired a once-popular dance, the “Hippopotamus Polka”.

Hippo Trophies

Available Hunting Species



This prehistoric looking animal will be an interesting hunt.

Sondelani Hunting Packages


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Matetsi Hunting Packages


This giant is an impressive trophy that will test your mettle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you hunt hippos in Africa?

Yes, you can hunt the hippopotamus in Southern Africa. Hippos have been added to the dangerous game list as they are just as dangerous as the lion or buffalo. This makes it a perfect addition to your hunt in Zimbabwe.

Is it legal to hunt hippos?

As long as you have the right permit and are in the company of a professional hunter, you can hunt hippo inn Zimbabwe. The hunting of hippo is subject to quotas and the required regulations, but if you book with a reputable hunting outfitter there will be no problems.

What animal can kill a hippo?

A lion will attempt to attack a juvenile hippo under cover of darkness but the only animal that can kill an adult hippo would be an elephant. This comes down to the sheer size and weight of the elephant. It will also use his trunk and tusks as an added advantage during the altercation.

Why was the hippo hunted?

In the past hippo were hunted for their meat, skin, and teeth. This unregulated hunting together with shrinking habitats and the inevitable hippo and human disagreements have contributed to the reduced number of hippo populations today.

Can a gun kill a hippo?

The right rifle, preferably a caliber of 375 or higher, that is accurate will do the job. The hippo is a big animal with a lot of fat, you will need to hit it in the right place for a quick kill.

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