Are Hippos Faster Than Horses? [No! But They Are Fast]

Hippos are large animals that spend time on both the land and in the water. Their short, stocky bodies don’t seem like they can move very fast, but they can run faster than the average person if something agitates them.

Horses, on the other hand, are known for their speed, with some being bred specifically for racing. But can a hippo outrun a horse?

Hippos are not faster than horses. While a hippo can outrun a human, horses can outstrip both of them. Even so, hippos can move quickly in spite of their ungainly appearance, even underwater.

Hippos In Water And On Land

Hippos divide their time between land and water. Although they’re bulky animals, their bodies are well-designed for movement in either environment.

Hippos Are Semi-Aquatic

Hippopotamuses spend a large portion of their time in the water. They are native to Sub-Saharan Africa, where temperatures can reach as high as 36° C (96° F) in the summer.

Staying in the water is how hippos keep cool. They can spend up to 16 hours a day in the water.

Their bodies are well-adapted to the water, especially their heads. Their nostrils and eyes are on the top of their heads, which allows them to both breathe and see while the rest of their bodies are under water.

Hippos can submerge themselves completely as well; they’re able to hold their breaths for up to five minutes. Despite their love of water, however, hippos can’t swim. Instead, they walk and jump along the bottoms of rivers and lakes.

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The Common Hippo species averages over 3,000 pounds (over 1,400 kg), while Pygmy Hippos only reach about 600 pounds (273 kg). For Common Hippos, however, the males hippos, can even reach as much 9,000 pounds.

Hippos are the second largest land animal, beaten out only by elephants.

The Common Hippo also has dense bones, which, along with its weight, help it walk underwater. This is also known as bottom-walking.

Hippos Can Charge On Land

Not only are hippos extremely heavy, but they also have a stocky build. Their torsos are barrel-shaped, and they have short, stubby legs. Even so, they’re more than capable of running on land, and will do so if agitated, as they’re aggressive animals.

Hippos can move relatively quickly for their size and build. They can even outrun a human. Hippos can reach speeds of up to over 18 miles per hour (30 km/h) on land. They can keep up this speed for several hundred meters as well.

How Fast Are Hippos?

The speed of a hippo may be surprisingly fast for its bulky body shape, but they still don’t compare to most horses. The fastest horse on record had a top speed of 43.97 mph (70.76 km/h). That’s nearly double that of the world’s fastest runner.

The following chart shows the difference between the average speed of hippos, horses, and humans at their fastest.

Hippopotamus18.64 mph (30 km/h)
Horse40 mph (64.37 km/h)
Human (Average)5.45 mph (8.77 km/h)
Olympian (Usain Bolt)23.33 mph (37.55 km/h)

So, while a hippo can’t run faster than a horse, they can likely outrun the average human, and are only slightly slower than the world-record holder for running speed.

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Horses Are More Varied Than Hippos

While there are two species of hippos, there is only one species of horse in the world: Equus caballus. However, under that one species there are over 400 breeds.

In general, these breeds have three different body shapes: ponies, light breeds, and heavy breeds. Ponies are very small and stocky, standing under five feet tall and weight between 200 and 1,500 pounds.

Light breed horses have bodies meant for racing, riding, and herding. The smallest light horses can be around the same height as a pony (around 48 inches), but even the lightest of them weigh around 900 pounds.

On the larger end, light horses stand up to five-and-a-half feet and weigh 1,400 pounds.

Finally, heavy breeds, or draft horses, stand between just under five feet to over five and a half. However, they all weigh about 1,400 pounds or more. Because of their build, they’re often used for pulling heavy loads.


If a hippo were to charge at the average person, they would easily outrun the human. At top speed, a hippo runs over three times faster than the average human sprinter.

When it comes to horses, however, both hippos and humans are soundly beaten. The top average speed of a horse is 40 mph, which makes them over twice as fast a hippo on land.

Still, with weights that can reach well over a ton, a hippo’s land speed of over 18 mph is formidable. A hippo might not be able to outrun a horse, but they would at least be able to outrun a person.

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James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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