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Hippo vs. Rhino: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on October 27, 2023
Hippo is a large, mostly herbivorous, semi-aquatic mammal from Africa, while Rhino is a herbivorous mammal known for its thick skin and one or two horns on its snout.

Key Differences

Hippos, native to sub-Saharan Africa, are recognized by their barrel-shaped torsos, large mouths, and enormous teeth. Rhinos, on the other hand, are recognized worldwide for their impressive size and the iconic horns that sit atop their snouts. While they share the same habitat in parts of Africa, they have distinct lifestyles and physical characteristics.
A significant distinction between the two is their habitat preferences. Hippos are semi-aquatic creatures, spending a considerable amount of time in freshwater bodies to keep their skin moist and cool. Rhinos, in contrast, are terrestrial and are more commonly found wandering grasslands, savannas, and forests in search of food.
When it comes to physical attributes, Hippos have smooth, nearly hairless skin that secretes a unique red-colored fluid, while Rhinos are recognized for their thick, armor-like skin and the absence of fur. Moreover, while the Hippo's most noticeable feature might be its wide-open mouth, the Rhino's trademark is undeniably its horn or horns.
Dietary habits further differentiate these mammals. Although both are herbivores, Hippos mostly consume grass but can occasionally consume fruit. Rhinos, depending on the species, eat a combination of grasses, leaves, shoots, and branches.

Comparison Chart


Semi-aquatic, freshwater habitats in Africa.
Grasslands, savannas, and forests.

Notable Physical Feature

Large mouth and teeth.
One or two horns on the snout.


Smooth, secretes a unique red fluid.
Thick, armor-like without fur.


Primarily grass, sometimes fruit.
Grasses, leaves, shoots, and branches.


Can weigh up to 4,500 lbs.
Can weigh between 1,800 to 5,100 lbs.

Hippo and Rhino Definitions


A semi-aquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa.
The Hippo is known to have one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom.


Possesses a thick, protective skin. Example
The Rhino's skin acts like armor, protecting it from thorny shrubs.


Spends significant time in water to cool off.
The Hippo's skin secretes a red fluid when exposed to sunlight.


A large mammal known for its horn or horns on its snout. Example
The Rhino's horn is, unfortunately, a target for poachers.


Primarily a herbivore, feasting on grass.
Despite its size, a Hippo primarily eats grass at night.


Can be found in parts of Africa and Asia. Example
The Indian Rhino is native to the Indian subcontinent.


Recognized for its barrel-shaped body and large mouth.
When threatened, a Hippo may open its mouth wide as a warning.


Depending on the species, diet varies. Example
The Black Rhino has a prehensile lip for eating leaves and shoots.


Has powerful jaws with large canines.
A Hippo uses its strong teeth both for feeding and defense.


Is one of the "Big Five" game animals in Africa. Example
Many tourists go on safaris hoping to spot a Rhino in the wild.


A hippopotamus.


A rhinoceros.


Clipping of hippopotamus




Same as hippopotamus.


(colloquial) A rhinoceros.


An ancient Numidian town in northwestern Africa adjoining present-day Annaba in northeastern Algeria


Gold and silver, or money.
As long as the rhino lasted.


Massive thick-skinned herbivorous animal living in or around rivers of tropical Africa


Massive powerful herbivorous odd-toed ungulate of southeast Asia and Africa having very thick skin and one or two horns on the snout


What regions do Rhinos inhabit?

Rhinos are found in parts of Africa and Asia, depending on the species.

Where can Hippos be primarily found?

Hippos are native to sub-Saharan Africa, inhabiting freshwater habitats.

What is the primary purpose of a Rhino's horn?

The Rhino uses its horn for defense, display, and digging up roots and breaking branches.

How many species of Rhinos are there?

There are five species: White, Black, Indian, Javan, and Sumatran.

Are Rhinos herbivores?

Yes, Rhinos are herbivores, eating grasses, leaves, and branches.

How do Hippos protect themselves?

Besides their size, Hippos have powerful jaws with large teeth for defense.

Do Hippos swim?

Hippos don't truly swim; they glide or push off the bottom.

Why do Hippos spend so much time in water?

Hippos use water to keep their skin moist and to regulate their body temperature.

Is it true that Hippos secrete a red fluid?

Yes, Hippos secrete a unique red fluid that acts as sunscreen and an antibiotic.

Why are Rhinos poached?

Rhinos are poached primarily for their horns, which are sought after for traditional medicine and as status symbols.

What is the primary diet of a Hippo?

Hippos primarily consume grass and occasionally fruit.

Are Hippos territorial?

Male Hippos are territorial, especially in water.

How long do Hippos live in the wild?

Hippos have a lifespan of up to 40 years in the wild.

Do Rhinos have good vision?

Rhinos have poor vision but a strong sense of hearing and smell.

Can Hippos be aggressive?

Yes, despite their seemingly docile nature, Hippos can be very aggressive.

Are there Rhinos outside of Africa?

Yes, the Indian, Javan, and Sumatran Rhinos are Asian species.

Are Rhinos endangered?

Yes, all five species of Rhinos are threatened, with some critically endangered due to poaching and habitat loss.

How big is a Hippo's mouth?

A Hippo's mouth can open up to 180 degrees wide.

How fast can a Rhino run?

Rhinos can charge at speeds up to 35 mph.

Are Rhinos social animals?

While some Rhino species can be solitary, others, like the White Rhino, are more social.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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