Hippos Eat Meat Too, Not Just Plants

Hippos in Zambia's South Luangwa River.
Hippos in Zambia’s South Luangwa River.
Every so often herbivores get an iron deficiency and a deficiency of minerals that are generally found in meat.

However, hippos, out of all the other herbivores, are the most omnivorous with them being caught eating meat most often. We’ve never seen a sighting like this though.

In this situation, the lions had a meal, so they were content and didn’t see a hippo as a threat like they would hyenas. And this hippo was a massive one, so the lions didn’t want to risk injury.


Hippos are considered the most dangerous animals in Africa. However, unlike lions, leopards, and crocodiles, this reputation is due to their aggressive, territorial nature, rather than their hunger for flesh.

Hippos are herbivorous grazers, not carnivorous predators. Nevertheless, in recent years, scientists have been uncovering new aspects of hippo behavior that have shattered previous notions of the diet of these infamous aquatic mammals.

In 1995, biologist Joseph Dudley documented hippos eating meat for the very first time in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. In two instances, Dudley observed hippos capturing and devoured prey as well as scavenging upon carcasses.

Yet, Dudley’s observations were only the tip of iceberg. With the advent of the internet and social media, more and more people are observing these previously undocumented hippo mannerisms. In Kruger National Park in South Africa, a hippo was observed cannibalizing the carcass of another hippo.

In another incident during the Great Migration in Kenya’s Mara River, hippos were filmed stealing a zebra carcass from a crocodile and scavenging upon the zebra’s body. Footage of the dramatic event is visible in the video below.

Why do hippos sometimes eat meat? It’s possible that the lack of nutrients, especially during the dry season, plays a role in their carnivorous tendencies. Other meat-eating instances could simply be opportunism.

With their massive, crushing jaws and sharp, knife-like teeth, we shouldn’t be surprised that hippos occasionally enjoy a zebra steak here and there.

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