Fun Animal Facts

How Fast Can a Hippo Run?

by Rob Byron

When you think of the fastest animals on land, a Hippo won’t cross your mind, mainly because of its size. However, you should know that hippos are fast runners on land, even faster than humans, and their gait is similar to horses’. However, we need an answer to the question: how fast can a hippo run?

While on land, a hippo can hit a speed of 19 miles per hour (mph), but that’s usually when it feels threatened and it’s running from a threat, or trying to scare one away. However, when it’s out of the water at night, and leisurely searching for grasses to eat, they usually walk at a speed of about 3 miles per hour (mph). In water, they are bad swimmers, despite spending most of their time there.

We’ll answer the question: how fast can a hippo run, and compare their speeds to humans’. You’ll also understand how hippos can hit their maximum speed despite their weight.

Why Would A Hippo Run?

A hippo isn’t the fastest animal but it isn’t the slowest. However, you wouldn’t think of it as fast considering its size. It may surprise you that a hippo can hit twice as much speed as an average human athlete can sprint. Despite the difference in body size and weight between humans and hippos, the seemingly disadvantaged one is the fastest when it comes down to it.

A hippo can run as fast as 19 mph. Yes, you read that right. When on land and faced with a threat, a hippo, probably from a human, an automobile, or other animals, can run as fast as approximately 30 km per hour. While this is an impressive speed for such body size, don’t expect to see a hippo hit that speed without a valid reason – threat.

Ordinarily, a hippo’s strut is similar to a horse’s, and it becomes more apparent when its speed increases. Therefore, a hippo that hits 19 mph will be galloping like a horse. However, when it’s leisurely walking, its gait doesn’t come close to a horse’s. While watching a hippo run, it doesn’t seem as though it’s fast until you’re what it’s after.

How Can a Hippo Run So Fast with its Weight?

How Can a Hippo Run So Fast with its Weight?

Why will a hippo run as fast as it can when it’s so big? You’re not the only one with that thought. Hippos are so big that they’re the second-largest land animal, after elephants, and they can run faster than the average human. How can they run so fast if they have so much size and weight? The answer is in their anatomy.

As it is with every animal, there are underlying muscles that help with movement. The stronger these muscles are, the more explosive power they produce for movement. Hippos have stumpy legs that don’t seem to fit their large torso. However, those stumpy and relatively thin legs have strong muscles that help them move their massive weight both on land and in water. Because they face resistance in the water, their leg muscles have adapted to moving greater weight underwater. Therefore, they tend to move their weight more easily while on land.

In their weight class (hippos weigh over 3000 pounds on average), hippos are slower than elephants and rhinoceroses. While they are faster than humans, they’re considered slow for their weight class.

Can a Man Outrun a Hippo?

Considering the difference in size between a human and a hippo, one would expect that a human, being of lesser size and weight, should be able to outrun a hippo; however, that’s not the case. A man cannot outrun a hippo, even though hippos can’t maintain their top speed for a long time.

On average, a hippo hits about 30 kilometers per hour (19 mph) at full speed, while a man can only reach about 23 miles per hour when sprinting (37.58 km per hour). With these figures, you may think you can outrun a hippo, but you can’t. The reason boils down to the duration you can maintain that sprinting speed.

For a non-athlete, hitting that speed is impossible, reducing your chances of outrunning a hippo. Also, your body needs a constant supply of oxygen to keep you running, and that causes your speed to reduce drastically at any distance beyond 400 meters. A non-athlete can run up to 25 km per hour, which isn’t close to a hippo’s average speed. Therefore, it is wiser to climb a tree than to try to outrun a hippo when they confront you in the wild.

Can Usain Bolt Outrun a Hippo?

While an average non-athlete may not outrun a hippo, Usain Bolt may be able to outrun it, being the fastest man in the world with a record of 47.6 km per hour. However, he also needs to maintain that speed, or a little less than it, throughout the chase to survive a dangerous encounter with a hippo. Usain bolt held that speed for only 20 meters, which shows how unsustainable it is to maintain such speed.

Therefore, theoretically, Usain Bolt can outrun a hippo, but realistically, it may be impossible. The safest thing to do is climb a high surface when a hippo chases you.

Can Hippos Run 30 mph?

There’s a common notion that hippos can run as fast as 30 mph, equivalent to about 48 km per hour. However, that is false. Hippos can only run at an average speed of 19 mph, equal to 30 km per hour.

They can’t run faster than elephants, nor can they run faster than rhinos.

Final Thought

Hippos are large semi-aquatic mammals, the second largest after elephants, and they can run as fast as 30 km per hour (19 mph). Although it is commonly believed that they can reach up to 30 mph, it is false. Humans, except athletes, can’t outrun hippos as they can’t hit a higher average speed. However, it’s safer for both athletes and non-athletes to climb a higher surface instead of trying to outrun a hippo.

Rob Byron
Learning about and helping all kinds of animals has been in my blood as long as I can remember. I've been part of many different animal associations over the years so I decided to create this animal info blog with my family who are all involved with animal rescue in some capacity. Also, Because Animals Matter!
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