Do Hippos Eat Their Young? Is it True or Myth?

Though infanticide is an abomination of nature, many animals are seen to be apt to this. This includes hippopotamus also.

But do hippos eat their young? No, they don’t. Yet they are seen to attack and kill the little ones with sheer brutality.

Mostly males and sometimes females also get their hands dirty in this atrocious process. There are several reasons behind why they do this. Sometimes it is done in the name of male dominance, and sometimes unusual birth experience is the reason.

Do Hippos Eat Their Young

Do Hippos Eat Baby Hippos?

Hippopotamuses don’t eat their children. But many encounters of attacking the young have been recorded.

Hippopotamus groups generally consist of 15 to 50 of them. The number of females is far greater than the number of males. So one male gets to be dominant over several other contemporaries. They all like to take a swim together in the muddy wallows of Africa on a hot summer day.

Angry bull hippopotamus chasing

However, a newborn calf is always staying with its mother. It swims the muddy holes, grazes the grassy lands, basks in the sun along with its mom. It is like a shadow to her.

Baby hippo walking with mother hippo

But the angry dominant male hippo has other things to say. During the mating season, it wants to mate as many times as possible. But the mother denies the proposals as she has a calf to bring up. So the angry male understands the gravity of the situation and goes after the calf without a second thought.

The mother tries her heart and soul to protect her child. But in most cases, she fails. Soon the helpless calf is seen fleeing for its life on its own with no one to spread a helping hand. The agile bull has no problem chasing the poor thing down. It then grabs the little thing with his massive jaw and penetrates it with its sharp canines.

The soft skin of the newborn gives in to the brutality within seconds. It starts to bleed. The bull then murderously shakes his head up and down, right and left and in all directions. This rips the poor thing apart.

Eventually, it takes its last breath in the process. The corpse then turns out to be quite a meal for the crocodiles. They chew on the soft flesh of the newborn with satiety.

Finally, the bull gets what it wants. The mother hippo grieves the murder of her child for some days but eventually is defeated by the will of nature.

Why Do Hippopotamuses Attack Their Babies?

There are several reasons why male hippos attack baby hippos. Some of them are as follows,

  • Bulls kill the baby after it has beaten its father in a fight for dominance.
  • To mate with the mother.

Females attack the baby for reasons as follows,

  • To reclaim her energetic investments if she feels the environment is too hostile to raise the child.
  • Malnourished or mothers who had unusual birth experiences can become infanticidal.


In some cases, the mother hippo is seen to hold her baby in her mouth. This is not for the sake of eating it. Rather it is a sign of a protective mom. Mother hippos tend to carry the calf in her jaws,

  1. When crossing a deep river or water hole.
  2. When she feels the surroundings to be unsafe for her newborn.
  3. When too many predators or worse hippos are around.

However, this often raises a misconception. Some news reporters want to sell a made-up story of the mom eating the baby with a photo attached. Those reports are far from the truth and mostly false.

Hippo Cannibalism

Hippos fighting

Hippos are mostly herbivores. Scientists and field agents have discovered that hippopotami can be cannibals too. Scientists claim this to be an unusual act of the kind. A group of hippos was caught red-handed in the act during a drought in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Usually, that’s the time when the scarcity of food and water is the most.


Hippopotamuses don’t eat their young. Rather they tend to kill it for their gains. But that is not always the case. Sometimes they’re just protective and want the young one to be safe. That is why they hold it in their mouth.

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Team Animalia Facts

"Team Animal Facts" is an expert group of wildlife enthusiasts who are impassioned for mysteries of animal life and dedicated to exploring them.

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