Hunting Hippo

After the Elephant and Rhino, the Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is the third-largest type of land mammal. During the day Hippo prefer to be in the water or on the banks nearby, where the stay cool from the hot African sun. Many people don’t know that Hippos are plant & grass eaters. They roam the banks of the rivers and lakes during the night, grazing on the vegetation. Hippos are also the land mammal that kills the most people each year, making it a dangerous hunt.

Hippos can be hunted in or outside the water, depending on where you find them. This adrenaline filled hunt really brings one close to nature, as you mostly find them in rural areas. When hunting a Hippo in the water, they will float after a period of about 45 minutes. (Keep this in mind for the Crocodile page). Hunting a Hippo on land can be dangerous as any of the other Dangerous game, but they tend not to charge as quick as the others.

Kaiwhai Safaris can brag with some of the best Hippo to hunt in Africa!

Natural History
Hippopotamus in Greek means “river or water horse.” Four distinct toes on each foot. Herbivores. Live 30 to 40 years. Nocturnal grazing animals: leave the safety of water to graze all night. Front teeth are for threatening displays and fighting. Bristle-covered lips used for grazing. Can weigh up to three tons, consume more than one hundred pounds of herbage per night. Social animals: found in pods that average ten to fifteen members. Not good swimmers; run along bottom instead. Can run eighteen miles per hour on land. When surprised there, they head for safety of deep water by shortest possible route; dangerous when they do so. Kill more African natives than all other dangerous game animals put together, cows with young calves especially dangerous, approach with extreme caution.

Sex Determination
Mature bulls have broader, longer, and generally bigger heads in relation to overall body size, necks also thicker and more muscular. When they are submerged, the only way to determine sex is to observe the pod carefully. Dominant bull will usually be on its fringes, performing threatening displays. Compare head sizes carefully.

Trophy Assessment
A hippo’s tusks (two lower incisor teeth) are its most impressive and recordable trophies. Field judging of trophy quality difficult as half of tusk’s length embedded in jawbone. SCI method (12): sum of length of both tusks + circumference of both tusks at largest place. Roland Ward method (5): length of longest tusk.

The Hunt
Usually illegal to hunt at night or with use of spotlight. Also considered unethical to shoot at or within a reasonable distance of any permanent water source or from a boat. Since hippo usually found in or next to water during legal shooting hours, hunter’s own conscience is deciding factor. Not easy to approach on land; have good eyesight, keen sense of hearing, relatively good sense of smell. Ambushing basking bank or stalking an identified bull as it basks in the sun are the most ethical hunting methods. Many wounded hippos are lost if they get back to flowing water.

Rifle, Calibre, and Bullet Selection
Hippo are huge and thick skinned. Legal minimum is .375 H&H or the various 9.3mms, which also generate in the region of 4,000 ft-lb of muzzle energy. Larger calibres more effective for body shots, but not as accurate for brain ones. Good-quality solids for all body shots; premium- quality softs for brain shots. A suitable scope essential for precise shot placement required for brain shots.

Shot Placement

  • Side-on high heart/lung shot, most effective if far from running water: Come up back edge of front leg and place shot between one third and halfway up the body on that line.
  • Shoulder spinal shot: Place shot right on shoulder joint.
  • Side-on brain shot best to “anchor’ hippo: Place shot at base of ear or at that level but an inch or two in front of it.
  • Frontal chest shot impossible when head is down; brain shot only option to stop a charge.

Shot placement on any of the dangerous game in Africa is vital. Below are some images from a very well-known author, Kevin Robertson’s Book – Perfect Shot Placement for African Big Game. If you would like to buy a copy of this book, which we would recommend, you can get it on Amazon, by clicking here