Hippo Vs. Tiger: Who Would Win? [Comparison & Facts]

Photo: Kelsey Neukum / Shutterstock

Killing over 500 people a year, hippos are deemed the deadliest mammal in the world. They are also known to fight off scary predators, including crocodiles. But what about tigers?

Hippos and tigers don’t live in the same geographic ranges. However, since tigers are more powerful than lions – which are known to feed on hippos – one would expect the big cat to win the fight. 

Hippopotamuses are up to six times larger and over 14 times heavier than tigers. They have very long tusks, large mouths that open to 180 degrees, and a more powerful bite. They also have a more powerful strike. Hippos live in groups, whereas tigers are solitary. Tigers don’t stand a chance in a fight, but they can outrun the aggressors. 

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

Body size9.5 to 16.5 feet7.1 to 10.75 feet
Weight 1.5 to 5 tons140 to 660 pounds
Teeth size>1.5 feet3.6 inches
Bite force1,827 PSI1,050 PSI
Speed19 mph50 mph
Strike force188,480 lb.-ft./s33,500 lb.-ft./s
Behavior Social; aggressiveSolitary; aggressive
Diet Herbivore Carnivore 
Geographic range AfricaAsia 
HabitatSemi-aquatic Grasslands, swamps, rainforests, taiga
Conservation statusVulnerable Endangered 

*Hippo data in the table refers to common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) species due to research availability in regard to strength. Tiger data is based on ranges and averages for all extant tiger species. Specific characteristics might vary from one tiger subspecies to the other. 

All data was sourced from research papers, studies, and other official sources cited throughout the article. 

Strike forces were calculated based on the top speed each species can reach and multiplied it by the heaviest weight mentioned in the table. 

Hippo Vs. Tiger: 11 Key Differences 

Photo: Sourabh Bharti / Shutterstock

1. Body Size

Hippos and tigers are both large mammals, but there is a huge size difference between them. 

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Tigers are the largest species of cats. Depending on the species, they can grow up to 10.75 feet long, even if some of the smallest individuals have an average length of only 7.1 feet. 

Hippos are some of the largest mammals in the world, as well as the largest even-toed ungulates. They can reach lengths up to 16.5 feet. 

Height-wise, tigers can reach a shoulder height of about 4 feet, whereas hippos can grow as tall as 5.2 feet at the shoulder. 

2. Weight 

Hippos are not only larger than tigers; they are also heavier – their body mass is over 14 times that of tigers. 

Specifically, tigers can weigh up to 660 pounds. Hippos can reach weights up to 5 tons, which is about 9,920 pounds

3. Teeth Size

Ungulates are not expected to have large canines. Yet, hippos do – and their tusks are a lot longer than a tiger’s fangs. 

Like elephants, hippos’ tusks give these mammals an evolutionary advantage. They can use them for defensive purposes or to fight off other males during mating, or to defend the territory. 

On average, hippo tusks can grow up to 20 inches (1.6 feet long). However, some of the largest hippos have tusks over 3 feet long. 

By comparison, tigers have tiny canines that only measure up to 3.6 inches.

Considering that hippos have a thick layer of fat under their 2-inch thick skin, tigers would only be able to leave a scratch. Hippos could inflict serious internal organ damage. 

4. Bite Force

Another advantage for hippos is the bite force, which is much stronger than a tiger’s. 

In a study, researchers concluded that hippos can exert up to 12,600 kPa of force when biting, which is the equivalent of about 1,827 PSI. 

Tigers also have powerful bites compared to other mammals – they are carnivores, after all.

However, a tiger’s bite force is only 1,050 PSI, which is actually weaker not only than hippos but also hyenas and gorillas.

5. Speed

While hippos have size and strength, tigers have speed and agility. 

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Not only can they easily reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour (and sometimes sprint up to 50 mph), but tigers can also climb trees and ambush their prey.

Hippos are a lot slower, reaching galloping speeds of only 19 miles per hour. However, they don’t really have to be fast, considering their sheer power.

Both tigers and hippos are excellent swimmers, but as an amphibious species, hippos might have the upper hand in the water.

6. Strike Force

While there are very few studies regarding the strike force of tigers and hippos, their force at the moment of the impact can be calculated by multiplying the top speed by weight.

For the purpose of this writing, we considered the top speed of 50 miles per hour for tigers and 19 miles per hour for hippos. We also considered the heaviest weight for each species.

According to this data, tigers can muster an impact force up to 33,500 lb.-ft./s.

Hippos are slower, but they are a lot heavier. Thus, their impact force can go as high as 188,480 lb.-ft./s. That is almost six times the force of tigers.

7. Behavior 

Like most big cats, tigers lead a solitary life. The only long-term relationship is between a mother and her cubs.

However, once the cubs are old enough to survive on their own, they leave their mother and establish themselves in new territories. 

Adult tigers only come together during the breeding season, with a female mating every three to four years. 

Hippos, like most ungulates, are a very social species. They live in groups that can range in size from about 20 to 100 individuals.

8. Diet 

One of the main differences between hippos and tigers is their diet. 

Hippos are ungulates, meaning that they are herbivores. Despite spending most of their time in the water, hippos are primarily grazers.

They move at night, covering large expanses of land, eating grass and other plant materials – they can consume up to 88 pounds of vegetation per day.

A peculiarity compared to other ungulates, however, is that meat consumption among hippos is not uncommon

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Typically, they eat carcasses and carrion. However, every now and then, there are also reports of hippos hunting down prey.

Tigers are carnivores and excellent predators. Their preferred prey includes wild boars, sambar deer, red deer, and barasingha. 

Although they occasionally consume plant materials, including berries and other fruits, tigers are almost exclusively meat eaters.

9. Geographic Range 

Tigers and hippos live in different geographic ranges, which is why an encounter in the wild is impossible.

Specifically, tigers roam Asia (or at least a few Asian countries), whereas hippopotamuses are found in Africa

10. Habitat

Not only do hippos and tigers live on different continents, but the two also prefer different habitats. 

Hippos are found near slow-moving rivers and lakes. They are an amphibious species that spend most of their daylight hours in the water.

Tigers are found in a variety of habitats, ranging from rainforests and grasslands to the Siberian taiga. 

11. Conservation Status

Both hippos and tigers are on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Hippos are considered a vulnerable species. However, the population – counting between 115,000 and 130,000 individuals – is stable. 

There are six extant species of tigers, and all of them are endangered. Specialists believe that there are between 2,608 and 3,900 tigers left in the wild of all tiger species combined.

Who Would Win A Fight? 

Hippos and tigers have no chance of meeting in the wild. Nevertheless, should the two stumble upon one another, tigers wouldn’t stand a chance. 

Hippopotamuses are behemoths weighing up to 5 tons and managing to strike with an equivalent to over 5,000 pounds of force. 

They also have bigger mouths, very long tusks, and powerful jaws that can exert over 1,800 PSI of power.

Tigers may be the largest of all big cats, but they are solitary. A single tiger wouldn’t be able to take down a sole hippo, let alone several members of a herd. However, tigers are faster and can run to safety.

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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