If you’re a good runner on a flat surface with a head start – yes – you can outrun a hippo. If you’re caught off guard, too close and too slow – then maybe not!
Table of Contents
How Can You Outrun A Hippo?
Hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) are huge – and strong. They don’t have any blubber – it is all muscle – so they can run fast. Clocking up to 20mph (32km/h) on the flat from a standing start – even an Olympic sprinter isn’t getting away.
If you are on the ground within a stone’s throw of a hippo – you are already too close to outrun them. If they charge from a standing start – you cannot possibly run faster than them in a straight line. No-one can.
However, you can prevent a hippo attack and give yourself enough of a head start – or delay their attack enough. Hippos kill over 500 people a year so you really don’t want to be anywhere near one. Basically, if you see one while you are on foot or in a boat – turn around and leave. Fast.
Unless you are an extremely fit sprinter – more than 100 meters away – and you are running away from the hippo’s favorite watery home whilst also not (accidentally) being between them and their calf – you may well just about get away with your life.
Outrunning a hippo is best done in half an hour before it starts the attack, in other words, don’t get into a situation where you need to run from a hippo.
How To Avoid A Hippo Attack:
By leaving them alone, letting them see you before moving away from their ‘safe place’ and by moving speedily with care – back the way you came – you can hopefully avoid an attack.
Basically assume a perimeter of more than 100 meters around them. Anything within this distance could be within easy reach of a hippo in a matter of seconds if they chose to attack: remember hippos are already up to 5m (16ft) long – so within ’20 steps’ they have covered this distance already!
And at speeds faster than ANY human sprinter – you have around 10 seconds head start. Whether they are in the water (especially shallow water) or on land – you are not safe within this distance – and you might not even be safe at double this. Sorry.
Make A Noise:
You do not want to surprise a hippo. If you suddenly come across a hippo closer than you would like – then make a noise. Let it know you are there and it can watch you while you move away.
You do not want to appear a threat – so if it can safely see you become less of a threat – it won’t waste its energy chasing you. Staying quiet and rustling away might spook it into a chase – thinking you are something more dangerous than you are.
Once started – it won’t stop the attack until you are neutralized!
Be Careful At Night:
Walking at night is probably more dangerous because this is when hippos leave the water to feed. Covering a few miles or km at night – browsing on grasses – they will be easily spooked and want to return to the water – most often the females have a calf waiting for them back there. You do NOT want to get in their way.
Watch Out For Hippo Poop:
Looking out for hippo poop can be helpful as they often poop in the paths between the river and their feeding zones – so the direction of the poop can tell you which way the water is. Certainly don’t set up camp anywhere near a poop trail as they WILL come back past. and hippos kill more people than lions by a long way – and you wouldn’t set up camp near a lion highway would you?
Just because hippos are herbivores – doesn’t mean they aren’t aggressive.
Run In A Zig Zag:
Once they are attacking – say you spooked one by accident – you need to zig-zag away (as like alligators and crocodiles they can’t change direction very fast or very easily).
Ideally, you need to put something in the way of their charge too – like trees, rocks, and buildings and make sure you run AWAY from their favorite watercourse. With all these obstacles in the way – and their home or calf (the thing they were defending) getting further behind them – they may just give up (fingers crossed).
Are Hippos Dangerous?
Yes, yes, yes.
They are grumpy, cantankerous and easily spooked GIANT creatures – and they take almost anything as an excuse to attack. Steer well clear.
If there was ever a reason to employ an excellent, well-qualified and knowledgeable guide – this is it. Money very well spent.