What do hippos eat?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What do hippos eat?”, and provide information on whether hippos are carnivorous, what captive hippos would consume, and how hippos consume foods. 

What do hippos eat?

Hippos eat leaves, grass, aquatic plants, and fruits. Hippos are herbivores and usually consume plants as a part of their diet. Fruits can also be consumed along with small reeds or shoots. 

The diet of the hippos can slightly vary depending on the species of hippos. For instance, pygmy hippos would consume more leaves and roots. They hardly consume grass. 

Hippos do not necessarily consume meat. It only does so when there are not many plant options available. However, there have been incidences of hippos attacking animals, stealing meat, or feeding on dead animals. 

Hippos have been known to attack wildebeests, kudus, or zebras. They have also been known to attack other hippos and indulge in cannibalism as well.

Are hippos carnivorous?

Hippos are large and carnivorous. They have the ability to kill any animal. However, hunting would require practice and a lot of energy. This could be the main reason why the hippos do not usually hunt.

It is difficult to ascertain whether the hippos truly hunt. They might hunt during the night time when the visibility is quite low though this is not confirmed either.

The hippo can consume around 30 to 150 pounds of food. This can be done by consuming grass or animals (which is rare).

What do captive hippos consume?

Captive hippos would consume a variety of foods compared to the wild ones. Wild hippos can provide alfalfa, lettuce, mixed veggies, and pellets. Melons can also be consumed by them.

Apart from this, they can also consume grass, hay, and other plant-based matter in captivity.

How do hippos consume food?

Usually, the hippos would consume food during dusk or night. They would sit near a grass bed or riverbed and then start to graze the area for food. This happens every day. The hippo would frequent the same path again and again. 

However, if there is a food scarcity observed, the hippos can travel away from the areas it usually frequents in search of food. This can help in finding edible foods. 

The hippos would graze on grass or leaves. This feeding period can last for approximately 6 hours or more. Once the feeding period is over, it would return to the water hole.

How do hippos eat food? 

Hippos are known for consuming plant matter. However, unlike other animals, hippos do not chew on the foods that they consume. The stomachs of the hippos are pretty complex too.

The bacteria present inside the hippo’s stomach would also break down the plant matter into digestible plant matter.

What would baby hippos consume?

Baby hippos would consume milk. If the mother hippo is staying underwater, the baby hippo would travel underwater and begin to suckle for milk. Hippos would mature at the age of 5-7 years. 

Which foods should not be given to captive hippos?

Other carcasses or animal meat should not be given to hippos. This especially needs to be kept in mind when the hippos are kept captive. Hippo’s digestive system cannot handle a meat-based diet.

Even in the wild, meat is rarely consumed by the hippos. As a result, it is not feasible to give them meat or meat-based products including carcasses. Hippos would eat meat only during times of food scarcity or drought.

Some of the commonly consumed meat would include zebras, wildebeest, elephants, and kudus. 

In certain instances, hippos in sanctuaries or parks can even kill pygmy hippos, tapirs, flamingoes, or wallabies. However, the zookeepers should still stick to giving them a plant-based diet.

What is some diet-related information to remember on hippos?

  • Male hippos are very aggressive when it comes to territory but do not mind grazing with other hippos. 
  • Hippos can go for 3 weeks without food. This is because they have the ability to store food in their stomach.
  • Dehydration is a danger because of which hippos spend most of their time in the water. Baby hippos are likely to get very quickly dehydrated as well.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What do hippos eat?” and provided information on whether hippos are carnivorous, what captive hippos would consume, and how hippos consume foods. 


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