Wildlife TV

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Do hippopotamus have horns?


“Do hippopotamus have horns?”


Occasionally I like to check the keywords used on search engines that lead to our blog. This task of mine has lead me to realise that this is something that many people ask but we hadn’t covered it.

In order to answer the question “Do hippopotamus have horns?” we must first answer the following question:


“What is the difference between hippopotamus and rhinoceros?”


So why would I assume that the problem here is that you might be confusing hippos and rhinos?
The answer is quite simple. In terms of appearance, habitat and even (some) behaviour, both species can be quite similar, therefore many people sometimes get them mixed up.

So first of all let’s check out the similarities between species:


Both Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus are:

  • Big, heavy animals (both males and females weighing over a tonne),
  • Greyish in colour with a thick skin,
  • Mammals (babies drink milk from the mother),
  • Located in the African continent,
  • Very dangerous to humans,
  • Herbivorous (only eat plant matter),
  • Territorial (males),
  • Faster than any human on Earth (yes, even Usain Bolt),
  • Can’t swim.
White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit



Now what about the differences between these two species?


  • Second largest land mammal,
  • There are 5 different species of rhinos: white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
  • Located in Africa and Asia,
  • Spend their day on land,
  • Have been around for about 11 million to 15 million years,
  • Don’t have any sharp teeth,
  • Are odd toed ungulates (with three toes on each foot).
  • Very threatened by illegal poaching,
  • Are one of the Big 5 species,
  • Have horn(s). The Javan and Indian species have only one horn while the black, white and sumatran species have two horns on their face.
White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) mother with baby

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) with baby
Photo Credit

















  • They are the third largest land mammal,
  • There are only 2 species of hippopotamus: the “normal” hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) and the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis),
  • Only located in Africa,
  • Spend most of their day inside the water (but can’t swim!),
  • Share a common ancestor with whales,
  • Have been around for 8 million to 16 million years,
  • Have very big, sharp canines and incisors (tusks), used for fighting,
  • Are even toed ungulates (with four toes on each foot),
  • Not as threatened by illegal poaching as the rhino,
  • Don’t have horns!
Mother Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby
Photo Credit

















So to conclude:

Hippopotamus do not have horns but they do have big tusks that they use to defend against predators or fight each other.

Rhinoceros use their horns to defend against predators and fight each other since they don’t have tusks.


Angry hipppopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit













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Dangerous Herbivores: Rhinos

In a previous post we learned about the Big 5; a term used to describe a group of animals that were historical the most dangerous to hunt. Nowadays, these animals are the most prized sightings on safari holidays but the danger they posed to people is still very real. Of the big 5, only 2 are predators; the others are herbivores meaning they eat plant matter, but, as we’ve seen with the African elephant (Loxodonta africana), plant eating animals are still extremely dangerous. The next animals we’re going to look at are rhinoceroses, specifically the two species found in Africa; the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) and the black rhino (Diceros bicornis)


Rhinos can also be fearsome beasts despite their generally peaceful vegetarian lifestyle. Adult rhinos, like elephants, have almost no natural predators but they are at risk of becoming involved in fights with other rhinos and also have to protect their young from predators such as hyenas and lions. So how do rhinos protect themselves? The weapons at a rhino’s disposal are of course its horns which grow from the front of its face and are in fact composed of the same material as human hair, keratin, and it’s these horns that they use to fight with other rhinos or to defend themselves or their young against any other potential threat. There are two species of rhinoceros in Africa, the black rhino and the white rhino but it is the black rhino that has acquired more of a reputation for ‘extreme’ aggression perhaps as a result from living in densely vegetated areas where escaping threats isn’t always possible. Interestingly, black rhinos are so aggressive that nearly half of all males die as a result of fighting each other, and nearly a third of females.

A White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) presents its impressive horns.

The keratin horns of this White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) are strong, deadly weapons.

Similarly to elephants, rhinos practice mock charging, but in the absence of big ears to flap, they instead scrap their horn on the ground or against nearby objects whilst snorting. However, many humans have ended up on the wrong end of a rhino’s horn because the animal was caught by surprise and unable to intimidate the threat it perceived; rhinos in general have very poor vision, with the exception of youngsters, and although their other senses are very acute, it is possible to approach rhinos quietly from downwind and get very close without them becoming aware of your presence. The problem arises when the rhino suddenly realises that a potential threat is already well within its comfort zone and it becomes spooked; one defence mechanism that rhinos employ is to panic run, this is where they charge in whichever random direction is easiest in the hope of either escaping a threat or trampling it in the process, unfortunately, a person might find themselves in the path of this panic run without much opportunity to get out of the way. Also, rhino females will very often be escorting a calf as they are on a lifelong cycle where they still live with a previous calf when a new one is born. They have a birthing interval of three years and it is very possible that a healthy reproductive female will never be without a calf in her adult life; a rhino cow’s maternal instinct can also contribute to a rhino’s aggression/defensiveness when humans are around. Humans have found themselves impaled on rhino horns, thrown into the air or even trampled underfoot and we should all learn the lesson that rhinos can be unpredictable.

A Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) chasis a field guide who had antagonised it.

This foolish guide unethically antagonised a Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) just to appease guests.
Photo Credits.

Like most animals, rhinos would much rather spend their days peacefully feeding and rearing their young, however, the African bush is a difficult environment full of conflict and these often peaceful herbivores will resort to deadly force if they have to. I hope you enjoyed learning about the darker side of African rhinos. In the next post we will look at another dangerous herbivore, the African buffalo. To learn about even more dangerous animals, check out our series page.

Much love,


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How do baby Rhinoceros survive?

I hope you’ve been following the “Baby Animals: How do they survive?” series so far.

If not, make sure you check the previous entries on baby cheetahs, zebras, hippopotamus, wildebeest, elephant and spotted hyenas.

There’s much more to learn about baby animals and their survival techniques!


Rhinoceros calves

In Southern Africa there are 2 species of rhinoceros, the White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) and the Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis).

As you might know, they are amazing creatures and considered one of the big 5, therefore one of the most sought after animals in a safari game drive. Despite the fact that both these rhino species share many similarities, they are in fact quite different from each other in many aspects.
Below you can the see a photo of a black rhino calf on the left and a photo of a white rhino calf on the right.

Cute baby Black rhino (Diceros bicornis)

Black rhino calf

Cute baby White rhino (Ceratotherium simum)

White rhino calf












Despite the obvious resemblance, their survival techniques are quite different.
Black rhinos prefer to live in dense vegetation areas whereas white rhinos prefer open fields in which they can scan for danger easily. Because rhinos in general are not gregarious animals, the newborn will spend most of its young life in the presence of the mother who will fiercely defend it against anything she might interpret as a potential danger.
Although adults have very poor eyesight, young calves can see better at a distance and often get curious with their surroundings. The mothers on the other hand get easily nervous since they can’t spot predators as well as predators can spot them. For that exact reason, rhinos’ defence strategy is often to either run away or towards the attacker.
The striking difference between black and white rhinos is the position the calf takes in regards to the mother.
Because black rhinos live in dense areas, when danger presents itself, the mother runs in the front while the calf follows her protected by her horn and aggressiveness. This way the mother is capable of opening a way for herself and the calf through the dense bush while charging with a deadly weapon mounted on her face against anything that shows up.
The opposite happens with white rhinos; because they live in open areas, chances are that the attackers (mostly lions) will try to chase and attack the calf from behind. Therefore, white rhino calves always run in the front when escaping danger while the mother stays at the rear protecting it from the attackers.

Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) mother and calf

Black rhino mother and calf
Photo credits

White rhino (Ceratotherium simum) mother and baby walking

White rhino mother and calf
Photo credits









To conclude, baby rhinos survive in the wild all due to their mother’s fierceness, either by protecting the calf from the back (in the case of white rhinos) or by destroying any obstacle in front of them (in the case of the black rhinos).

In each case, either obstacles or predators will be met with huge, pointy and sharp rhino horns ready to tear anything apart!


I hope you liked learning about the amazing world of baby rhinoceros.
Do you want to find out how baby warthogs and other animals survive?
Check out our “Series” page for the list of “Baby Animals: How do they survive?


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