Gorilla Vs. Hippo: Who Would Win A Fight? (Facts)

Photo: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock

Gorillas and hippopotamuses are two of the largest mammals in Africa. They don’t live in the same habitats; nevertheless, they could compete for resources should they find themselves in the same territory. 

In such a circumstance, would gorillas stand a chance? 

Despite being the largest apes, gorillas are about ten times smaller and up to 20 times lighter than hippos. Due to the size difference, hippos have more powerful strikes and can take out a gorilla with little effort. Gorillas also have smaller mouths and teeth and weaker bite forces compared to hippopotamuses. The only advantage these great apes have is their speed.

The table below shows a quick list of facts and strength comparison between gorillas and hippos*:

Body size5 to 6 feet9.5 to 16.5 feet
Weight310 to 500 pounds1.5 to 5 tons
Bite force1,300 PSI1,827 PSI
Speed20 to 25 mph19 mph
Strike force12,500 lb.-ft./s188,480 lb.-ft./s
BehaviorSocial; sometimes aggressiveSocial; aggressive
HabitatEquatorial AfricaSemi-aquatic; Africa
Conservation statusCritically endangeredVulnerable

*Strength facts and characteristics refer to the Hippopotamus amphibious species. Gorilla data includes averages for all gorilla species combined. Specifics can vary from one gorilla species to another. 

Strike forces in the table are calculated by multiplying the top speed by the heaviest weight mentioned in the table.

Gorilla Vs. Hippo: Strength Difference And Facts

Photo: Dagmara Albekier / Shutterstock

1. Body Size

Gorillas are the largest primates in the world; however, even if they are the largest of the great apes, they aren’t excessively large.

Mountain gorillas, which are the largest species, can grow up to six feet tall. Cross river and eastern lowland gorillas are much smaller, their height rarely exceeding five feet and a half. 

These numbers refer to the upper threshold, and their height is generally shorter compared to humans. 

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In fact, the average height of US men is 5.9 feet. The tallest individuals – about 14.5% of US men – are over six feet tall.  

Both humans and gorillas are a lot smaller than hippos that can grow up to 16.5 feet long

Hippos reach a height of 5.2 feet at the shoulder, yet, a hippo standing on its hind legs hovers over gorillas. Even a hippo standing on all four is a lot more massive.

2. Weight 

It doesn’t come as a surprise that larger size comes with a larger body mass.

Gorillas are muscular apes that can reach weights up to 500 pounds. However, hippos can weigh up to five tons, or 9,920 pounds. Some sources claim hippos only weigh four tons, but that’s still 8,000 pounds.

That makes hippos between 16 and 20 times heavier than gorillas, which is a huge advantage in a fight. Hippos could kill gorillas by trampling them with their feet. 

3. Bite Force

Not only are hippos larger and heavier, but they also have bigger mouths, long tusks, and a powerful bite of 1,827 PSI

Gorillas have powerful bites, too, up to 1,300 PSI. However, their jaws are weaker compared to hippos. 

What gives hippos another advantage is the fact that they can open their mouths to 180 degrees. Moreover, their tusks are over one-foot long. 

Gorillas have long canine teeth compared to other wildlife species, but their teeth only grow about two inches long. 

At this length, their fangs would only manage to pierce a hippo’s skin – which has the same thickness – but wouldn’t inflict any serious injuries whatsoever.

4. Speed

One area where gorillas actually have an advantage is the speed – even though they aren’t that much faster than hippos.

Specifically, mountain gorillas can sprint to top speeds of about 25 miles per hour. However, that speed can only be sustained for short distances.

In most cases, gorillas are a bit slower, running at speeds up to 20 miles per hour.

Hippos are not very fast, but they can still reach 19 miles per hour on land. They are also good swimmers, despite their large size.

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While gorillas are technically faster than hippos, there could be instances when a hippo outruns a gorilla.

5. Strike Force

The strike – or impact – force can be calculated by multiplying the speed at the moment of the impact by mass.

According to this formula, the actual strike force varies from individual to individual and situation to situation. However, for comparison purposes, we considered the top speed and heaviest weight each species can reach.

Based on this data, some of the largest gorillas can muster a strike force up to 12,500 lb.-ft./s (about 400 pounds of force) when hitting the opponent at top speed. 

As explained, hippos are a lot heavier than gorillas, and their strike force can reach 188,480 lb.-ft./s, which is around 5,860 pounds of force. 

That’s over 14 times stronger than gorillas and enough to take them down with a single strike.

6. Behavior 

Gorillas and hippos are opposites from a behavior standpoint. 

Both mammals are social and live in groups. However, gorillas lead rather peaceful lives. They can become aggressive if threatened, but they are usually shy towards humans and other mammals. 

These creatures typically mind their own business. Males might become aggressive during the breeding season, but these apes have clear social hierarchies.

Gorillas are also non-territorial, even though an encounter between two groups or a group and a lone male could result in conflict. 

Hippos are very social and typically live sedentary lives. However, they are very territorial and aggressive. So aggressive that they are deemed the world’s deadliest animal, killing over 500 people each year. 

Hippos can become even more aggressive when the young are concerned and often attack humans or other animals in their territory.

7. Diet 

Despite their aggressive nature, hippos are herbivores. They are primarily grazers, even if they consume a variety of plant materials. 

On occasions, hippos may also eat carrion. However, their stomachs are not developed to digest meat, and it is believed that their carnivorous tendencies are linked to nutritional deficiencies or illness.

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Gorillas are omnivores, but they have a primarily vegetarian diet. They are mostly browsers and consume leaves, fibrous bark, ferns, and berries. 

They also eat insects, especially ants and termites. 

8. Habitat 

Both gorillas and hippos live in Africa. However, gorillas live exclusively in the tropical rainforests, whereas common hippos live in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Pygmy hippos, which are smaller and weaker than common hippos, also occur in the tropical rainforests but in a different geographic range than gorillas.

Thus, gorillas and hippos are unlikely to meet in the wild.

9. Conservation Status

Habitat reduction and hunting have decimated the numbers of both hippos and gorillas.

Currently, both western and eastern gorillas are critically endangered, their numbers decreasing according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

The same Union evaluated the conservation status of hippos. Common hippopotamuses are currently considered vulnerable, but their population is stable. Similar to gorillas, pygmy hippos are endangered, and their population is decreasing.

The table below shows the conservation status of the various gorilla and hippo species*:

SpeciesScientific nameConservation statusPopulation size
Western gorillaGorilla gorillaCritically endangeredApprox. 100,000
Eastern gorillaGorilla beringeiCritically endangeredApprox. 2,600
Common hippopotamusHippopotamus amphibiusVulnerable115,000 to 130,000
Pygmy hippopotamusChoeropsis liberiensisEndangered2,000 to 2,499

*Data in the table was sourced from IUCN and WWF.

Who Would Win A Fight?

Gorillas and hippos live in different geographic ranges and are unlikely to meet in the wild. If they were to meet, though, gorillas wouldn’t stand a chance. 

Hippopotamuses have stronger bites, long tusks, and enormous mouths that open to 180 degrees. Not only could they crush gorillas’ bones with a single bite, but the tusks can pierce gorillas’ skins and damage their internal organs. 

Hippos are also larger and heavier than gorillas. A hippo could knock off a gorilla and trample it with its feet. The only hope for gorillas is that of outrunning the hippos.

The video below details why hippos would win the fight and what other animals could defeat gorillas:

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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