The hippopotamus is one of the largest mammals that spends most of its time in water. With their huge size and aggressive behavior, hippos can be quite intimidating. If you’ve ever wondered which hippo holds the record for being the biggest, then you’re in the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The largest hippopotamus on record was a bull named Humphrey that weighed 4,500 kg (9,920 lb).

In this article, we’ll explore more about Humphrey the hippo and other contenders for the title of the biggest hippopotamus. We’ll look at their sizes, weights, locations, and more. Read on to learn all about these hippo heavyweights!

Humphrey – The Heaviest Hippo on Record

His massive size and weight

Humphrey the hippopotamus was a true gentle giant, and the largest hippo ever recorded. At his peak size in the 1960s, Humphrey weighed an astounding 4,500 pounds (over 2,000 kg) – about as much as a small car! His immense bulk and incredible weight made him a local legend.

To put Humphrey’s size into perspective, the average male hippo weighs only around 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg). So Humphrey was a 50% larger than even a typical fully-grown male of his species. His huge head alone was over 5 feet long, and his mouth could open 4 feet wide.

Despite his intimidating size, keepers described Humphrey as a surprisingly gentle soul who loved to be hand-fed by caretakers.

During his lifetime at the Gooch’s Crocodile Farm in Australia where he lived, Humphrey was the main attraction that awed visitors. His hulking body and thundering bellows left a lasting impression on all who saw him up close.

Though hippos can live over 40 years, sadly Humphrey passed away in his 20s due to infection and health complications from his massive weight.

Where Humphrey lived

For most of his life, Humphrey resided at a crocodile farm called Gooch’s Croc Farm (now known as Australia Zoo) in Beerwah, Queensland, Australia. The rural farm and zoo opened in 1953, and acquired Humphrey as a baby hippo not long after.

As he grew, Humphrey was housed in a large outdoor enclosure along with crocodiles. This unique habitat allowed visitors to observe the unlikely pairing of a hippo mingling and getting along with crocs. Humphrey even sometimes gave rides on his back for young zoo patrons.

His friendly and gentle personality made him a beloved fixture at the zoo for over a decade.

During his time at the crocodile farm, Humphrey gained worldwide fame as the heaviest hippo ever documented. He brought the zoo extensive publicity before his death in the mid-1960s. Though Humphrey is gone, the Australia Zoo still has many hippos and hosts the largest collection of crocodiles in Australia.

Other Notable Big Hippos

Big bull hippos over 4,000 kg

Hippopotamuses are truly gargantuan animals, with some bulls reaching over 4,000 kg (8,800 lbs) in weight! Here are some of the largest hippo bulls on record:

  • A hippo shot in Kenya in 1919 weighed 4,200 kg (9,300 lbs).
  • In 1934, a bull hippo weighing 4,500 kg (9,900 lbs) was shot on the Elgon River in Kenya.
  • A hippo weighing 5,000 kg (11,000 lbs) was shot in Tanzania in 1961, one of the largest hippos ever recorded.

These colossal hippos showcase just how huge male hippos can grow. Female hippos are much smaller, averaging around 1,500-1,800 kg (3,300-4,000 lbs). While not every male reaches 4 tons, many still become absolute behemoths over 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs).

Other exceptionally large hippos

In addition to mega bulls, some female hippos also reach prodigious sizes:

  • In 1978, a hippo cow weighing 3,200 kg (7,050 lbs) was shot in the Zambezi Valley.
  • The heaviest hippo ever recorded was a female weighing approximately 3,900 kg (8,600 lbs), shot in South Africa in 1984.

Calves can also be remarkably hefty, with some newborns weighing nearly 100 kg (220 lbs)! While most hippos range 1,500-1,800 kg (3,300-4,000 lbs), the largest specimens demonstrate their true potential as the third-largest land mammal.

Interestingly, evidence suggests the extinct giant hippo Hippopotamus gorgops of Africa weighed up to 5,000 kg (11,000 lbs) or more! While still massive, modern hippos have become dwarfed compared to their giant prehistoric cousins.

Why Do Hippos Grow So Large?

Ideal Environmental Conditions

Hippos thrive in areas with an abundance of grasslands and waterways, like sub-Saharan Africa, which provides ideal conditions for them to grow incredibly large. The warm climate and plentiful food supply allows hippos to pack on the pounds from a young age.

An adult male hippo can consume up to 80 lbs of grass each night! With stats like these, it’s no wonder they can reach weights over 4,000 lbs.

Lack of Natural Predators

Another key reason hippos grow so massive is their lack of natural predators, especially in the water. Despite their cumbersome appearance, hippos are remarkably quick and aggressive. Their tough hide and ability to stay submerged for over 5 minutes makes them nearly invincible to predators.

This gives hippos an evolutionary advantage to grow to exceptional sizes without constraint. In fact, hippos are considered one of the deadliest large animals in Africa, responsible for an estimated 500 human fatalities per year.

Highly Territorial Nature

Hippos are also highly territorial, living in small pods led by dominant males. These leaders aggressively defend prime habitat and mating rights with other males. Their testosterone-fueled displays of dominance like gaping their enormous mouths, making menacing grunts, and spraying dung often intimidate rival males from confrontation.

As a result, the “alpha” hippos face little challenge to their leadership, mating rights, and access to plentiful resources needed to reach enormous proportions over 4 tons.

With ideal environmental conditions to eat and grow, lack of predators to constrain their size, and aggressive territorial behaviors, it’s no wonder hippopotamuses are among the largest land mammals on Earth.

The giant creatures make their watery homes in African wetlands, continuing to pack on the pounds as they lounge in rivers and graze grasslands under the hot sun.

Dangers of Large Hippos

Aggressive and unpredictable

Hippopotamuses are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Though they appear docile in water, they can be extremely aggressive and unpredictable on land. The combination of their unpredictable temperament and sheer size makes large hippos potentially very dangerous for humans.

Male hippos actively defend their territories which can span up to 40 square kilometers. They mark their territory by spraying dung and making territorial calls. When a perceived threat enters their terrain, large male hippos can charge at speeds of up to 30 mph and have been known to capsize boats and flip vehicles.

Their powerful jaws can crush a crocodile or fully grown human with ease.

Attacks on humans are not uncommon in Africa. Estimates indicate that hippos kill about 500 people per year in Africa. This is partly due to increasing human settlement and agriculture near hippo habitats and territories.

Powerful bite force

The hippo has one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom. Their tusk-like canine teeth can grow to over half a meter long while the incisors and cheek teeth help grind up vegetation.

Researchers have found that large male hippos have a maximum bite force of over 1.8 tons per square inch. This is over 3 times more powerful than lions and 20 times the bite force of humans. Their powerful jaws and large sharp teeth can easily bisect a human being in one chomp.

Destructive feeding habits

Due to their huge size, hippos can decimate crops and vegetation in a short period of time. A large hippo can eat up to 150 pounds of grass every night which can significantly impact farms and other food sources for local communities.

Hippos also spend lots of time in the water to regulate body temperature and avoid the sun. But this leads to the destruction of aquatic vegetation in lakes and rivers. The combination of eating tons of grass and destruction of aquatic plants can severely alter ecosystems that other wildlife depend on.

Protection for These Massive Mammals

CITES regulations

Hippos gained important legal protection in 1989 when they were listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means that international trade in hippos and hippo products is strictly regulated.

Any trade must be accompanied by permits to ensure it is not detrimental to the survival of the species. CITES is an international agreement between governments with the aim of ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

There are currently 183 Parties to the CITES Convention. The success of CITES relies on the cooperation between governments to prevent unsustainable and illegal exploitation of wildlife.

Establishing protected areas

Protected areas provide refuge for hippo populations and help conserve their riverine habitat. Many national parks and game reserves in Africa have stable or increasing numbers of hippos. For example, the hippo population in Kruger National Park in South Africa doubled from 1994 to 2004.

Hippos can also be an important source of tourism revenue which can fund conservation efforts. Community-based natural resource management initiatives engage local people in protecting wildlife and their habitat outside of formal protected areas.

Educating local communities

Outreach and education programs raise awareness amongst local communities about the importance of hippo conservation. These initiatives highlight hippos’ ecological role in maintaining healthy rivers and grazing areas.

Financial incentives such as employment in eco-tourism can also motivate people to value live hippos over the short-term gains of poaching. For example, in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi valley, communities receive benefits fromphotographic safaris, meaning they are more inclined to protect hippos and their habitat.

Key facts:

  • Hippos are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Population declines of 7-20% over 10 years have been reported across Africa.
  • The species is threatened by habitat loss, poaching for meat and the ivory trade.


That concludes our look at the biggest hippos around. While hippos can be dangerous, they play an important role in their ecosystems. Understanding more about these gentle giants helps us appreciate their immense size while working to conserve them.

Humphrey the hippo remains the heaviest on record at a whopping 4,500 kg. But large hippos like him display the incredible size hippos can reach given adequate resources and lack of threats. Their huge size is a reminder of nature’s ability to produce some of the largest land mammals on Earth.

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