Are Hippos Faster Than Horses

Hippopotamus, or hippos for short, are known for their barrel-shaped bodies, short legs, and enormous mouths. Because of their bulky appearance, one would think they only move slowly and steadily, but they are actually faster than most animals.

Horses, on the other hand, are undoubtedly one of the fastest animals on Earth. With an average speed of 70 kph, there’s no wonder why they are popularly used for sports like horse racing in various countries.

These two land mammals might be entirely different but they share one common characteristic: they both move fast on land. Here, we will discuss just how fast they move and which of the two moves faster than the other. (Read Why Does A Duck Have Feathers)

hippopotamus in a forest

All About Hippos

Here’s a quick trivia to start: the word “hippopotamus” is Greek for “water horse” or “river horse”. While they are named after horses, hippos and horses aren’t truly related. A hippo’s close relatives are more on pigs, whales, and dolphins. They mostly live in sub-Saharan Africa, and they are also known to be the third largest land mammal after elephants and white rhinos.

In terms of their size, hippos are around 11.5 ft (3.5 m) long and about 5 ft (1.5 m) tall. They typically weigh around 7,000 lbs. (3,200 kgs.). They usually have very thick, almost hairless skin which is grayish brown and with hints of pinkish color below their bodies.

Hippos love living in areas with abundant water such as rivers, lakes, and swamps. They spend most of their time (around 16 hours) with their bodies submerged during the day, and feed on grasses during the night. Being herbivores, hippos can chug down to as much as 35 kilos of grass in one night!

How Fast Can Hippos Swim

Hippos may love submerging their bodies in water to keep them cool, but you’d be surprised to know they can’t swim! 

When they are underwater, hippos only glide through it by pushing themselves off other things underneath. They can also walk fast underwater, to as fast as 8 km/h (4.97 mph). Since they cannot swim, they have to touch the land underwater and walk, then come back to open air to breathe. This is why they have reduced speed on the water than at land.

Being able to hold their breath underwater is also something hippos boast, as they can hold it for up to five minutes.

How Fast Can Hippos Run

How fast can a hippo run, you say? On average, hippos run at least 30 kph on flat ground, but they can go as fast as 48 kph. They usually gallop when they run, and do not lift their four legs altogether. 

One thing to know about hippos when they run fast is they can’t hold their speed for so long because of their extreme body mass. They can reach their top speed within a few seconds before going back to their average speed. Hippos usually run this fast for several reasons:

They are in search of food

Hippos can go as far as mile-long distances just to search for grass. Since they usually eat during the night, they travel great distances from the water where they submerge and make the most of their eating time.

They feel threatened

Yes, hippos may have huge bodies but they also feel threatened by other animals. When you see a hippo yawning, it is usually a telltale sign that they feel threatened by a predator. Whenever they yawn, they put their tusks on display to establish domination. Once they feel scared, they run at full speed away from the predator.

Their habitat undergoes change

It is common for animals’ natural habitats to undergo extreme environmental changes once in a while During this time, hippos are forced to migrate across places where they can peacefully live next. They don’t just travel across the land, but also great bodies of water until they find the perfect habitat for them. Some studies also showed that hippos can travel as far as 30 miles to find the best place for them to settle next. (Read Do We Eat Bulls)

All About Horses

horse on a farm

Horses are known for their muscular build, oval-shaped hooves, long tails, and elongated heads. They were found in northernmost Africa, mainland Europe, and east through Asia, but are now existing pretty much anywhere in the world.

Depending on the breed, a horse typically ranges from 227 to 900 kgs in weight and around 0.9 to 1.7 m in height. Their colors vary from black, bay, white, cream, palomino, and white.

Horses can pretty much adapt to any kind of habitat, although they thrive best in temperate grasslands and savannahs. They can also live comfortably in deserts, swamps, and woodlands. Like hippos, they are also herbivores whose diet mainly consists of grass, hays, and grains. Horses are also naturally athletic and smart, making them the perfect animals to take care of as family pets, or to be used for racings and shows.

How Fast Can Horses Swim

Unlike hippos, horses can swim. They are born with an instinct to swim when underwater despite not being able to breathe when underneath. However, they are nowhere as fast as they are on land when they are underwater, and can only go as fast as 4 kph.

Horses tend to exert more energy when they swim than they run. According to studies, a horse’s 10-minute swim can be equivalent to the energy they exert when they run for several miles. That’s how much swimming can be physically demanding for their energy.

How Fast Can Horses Run

An average racehorse speed is approximately 64 to 70 kph (40 to 44 mph). But the popular American Quarter Horses can go as fast as 72.5 to 88.5 kph (45 to 55 mph), making them the best picks as racehorses.

While all horses are naturally fast, few things affect a horse’s speed that makes other breeds faster than others. Here are just some:

Their long legs

Horses might be big and heavy animals but their long legs help them move back and forth fast. Their long legs are specifically designed to absorb the impact of their every stride with only minimal energy used. With this, they can go at high speeds and maintain it even for extended periods.

They have large hearts

Yes, horses have large hearts! Their cardiovascular system is so unique that their hearts can efficiently pump oxygen-rich blood throughout their bodies. In fact, it can pump up to 7 to 10 gallons/minute when at rest and up to 65 gallons/minute when running.

They have a large lung capacity

Not only do horses have large hearts, but they also have a large lung capacity. Unlike other animals, horses’ large lungs allow them to take in more air with each breath which allows them to breathe efficiently even with their increased speed. As we all know, the air supplies the muscles with oxygen that makes it essential for generating the energy needed for horses to run.

They have deep muscles and a good skeletal system

Horses’ deep muscles and skeletal systems are made for speed and agility. Their superficial muscles and hindquarters provide them with power and movement that makes it easier for them to move freely and quickly. 

Meanwhile, a horse’s skeleton has leverage points that muscles can use to generate power. This is why their skeletal system plays a huge part in them running fast.

Are Hippos Faster Than Horses

hippopotamus resting

With all the factors laid out, who’s faster of the two: horses or hippos?

While hippos can be at par when it comes to the speed of horses on the land, horses are the clear winner in the speed department. Their long legs, large hearts, huge lung capacities, deep muscles, and good skeletal systems make them fast and efficient even for extended periods.

However, when it comes to speed on the water, hippos take home the crown. Horses are not as fast and efficient in water and would most likely die faster than hippos. Whereas, hippos can survive underwater even for long periods. (Read Can Chickens Eat Purple Cabbage)

Final Thoughts

Hippos and horses have their strengths when it comes to speed. Hippos might have short legs and heavy bodies yet they can still move incredibly fast both on land and in water. They might not have the same stamina as horses on the land, but their speed is still faster than most land animals.

Horses, on the other hand, might not be as quick underwater as they are on land, but they have great stamina that lasts them for miles. Nevertheless, both animals boast in speed despite their weaknesses. 

Now that you know how hippos can be fast, you better be more cautious when you encounter them the next time. You wouldn’t want to run for your life when you think of underestimating hippos!

Are Hippos Faster Than Horses

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