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Hippopotamus vs. Rhinoceros: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 14, 2024
Hippopotamus is a large, mostly herbivorous, semi-aquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. Rhinoceros is a large, herbivorous mammal noted for its horn(s) on its snout, native to Africa and Asia.

Key Differences

The hippopotamus, or hippo, is well-known for its barrel-shaped torso, enormous mouth, and teeth, primarily living in rivers and lakes in sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast, the rhinoceros is recognized for its large size and distinctive horn(s) on its snout, found in both Africa and Asia.
Hippos are adapted to a life in water with eyes and nostrils on the top of their heads, allowing them to see and breathe while mostly submerged. Rhinoceroses, however, are more terrestrial and are known for their thick skin and often solitary nature.
Diet-wise, hippos are primarily herbivorous, grazing on grasses, while rhinoceroses are also herbivorous but can vary in their diet, eating leafy material, branches, and shoots depending on the species.
In terms of conservation status, many hippopotamus populations are under threat due to habitat loss and illegal hunting, similar to rhinoceroses, which are also critically endangered in some species, largely due to poaching for their horns.
Socially, hippos are known to live in groups called pods, consisting of up to 30 individuals, whereas rhinoceroses are often more solitary, except for mothers with young or during mating.

Comparison Chart


Sub-Saharan Africa, rivers, and lakes
Africa and Asia, various terrestrial habitats

Distinctive Features

Barrel-shaped torso, large mouth and teeth
Horn(s) on snout, thick skin


Semi-aquatic, eyes and nostrils on top
Terrestrial, thick skin for protection


Primarily grasses
Leafy material, branches, shoots

Social Structure

Live in groups (pods)
Often solitary or in small groups

Hippopotamus and Rhinoceros Definitions


A large semi-aquatic mammal native to Africa.
The hippopotamus spends most of its day submerged in water.


An animal native to African and Asian grasslands and forests.
We spotted a rhinoceros during our safari in Africa.


A herbivorous mammal with distinctive large mouth and teeth.
The hippopotamus opened its mouth wide, showing its large teeth.


Known for its solitary nature, except during mating or parenting.
The solitary rhinoceros grazed peacefully in the field.


A creature living in rivers and lakes, often in groups.
A pod of hippopotamuses basked in the shallow waters.


A herbivorous mammal with thick, protective skin.
The rhinoceros' thick skin protects it from thorns and branches.


An animal known for its large size and amphibious lifestyle.
We watched a hippopotamus emerge from the river at dusk.


Endangered species, often poached for its horns.
Conservation efforts are crucial to protect the rhinoceros.


Known for its barrel-shaped torso and massive weight.
The hippopotamus is one of the heaviest land animals.


A large mammal notable for its horn(s) on the snout.
The rhinoceros used its horn to defend against predators.


A large, chiefly aquatic African herbivorous mammal (Hippopotamus amphibius) having thick, dark, almost hairless skin, short legs with four toes, and a broad, wide-mouthed muzzle. Also called river horse.


Any of several large thick-skinned ungulate mammals of the family Rhinocerotidae, having one or two upright horns on the snout, and including the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) of Africa, the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) of India and Nepal, and the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) of Southeast Asia.


The pygmy hippopotamus.


Any of several large herbivorous ungulates native to Africa and Asia of the five extant species in the three extant genera in the family Rhinocerotidae, with thick, gray skin and one or two horns on their snouts.


A large, semi-aquatic, herbivorous (plant-eating) African mammal (Hippopotamus amphibius; common hippopotamus).


(paleontology) A member of the superfamily Rhinocerotoidea, including hornless members of the extinct genus Paraceratherium.


Any similar animal of the family Hippopotamidae.


Any pachyderm belonging to the genera Rhinoceros, Atelodus, and several allied genera of the family Rhinocerotidæ, of which several living, and many extinct, species are known. They are large and powerful, and usually have either one or two stout conical median horns on the snout.


A large, amphibious, herbivorous mammal (Hippopotamus amphibius), common in the rivers of tropical Africa. It is allied to the hogs, and has a very thick, naked skin, a thick and square head, a very large muzzle, small eyes and ears, thick and heavy body, and short legs. It is supposed to be the behemoth of the Bible. Called also zeekoe, and river horse. A smaller species (Hippopotamus Liberiencis) inhabits Western Africa.


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


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


Where do rhinos live?

In various terrestrial habitats in Africa and Asia.

What do hippos eat?

They mainly eat grasses.

Where do hippos live?

In rivers and lakes in sub-Saharan Africa.

What is a rhinoceros?

A large mammal known for its horn(s), native to Africa and Asia.

How long do rhinos live?

They can live up to 35-50 years.

How big do hippos get?

They can weigh up to 3,000 kg.

Are rhinos endangered?

Yes, many rhino species are critically endangered.

What is a hippopotamus?

A large, semi-aquatic mammal native to Africa.

Do hippos have natural predators?

Adult hippos have few natural predators due to their size.

Are hippos dangerous?

Yes, they can be aggressive and are considered dangerous.

How long do hippos live?

They can live up to 40-50 years.

Do rhinos have good eyesight?

No, they have poor eyesight but good hearing and smell.

What do rhinos eat?

They eat leafy materials, branches, and shoots.

What threatens rhinos the most?

Poaching and habitat loss are the biggest threats.

How many species of rhinos are there?

There are five species of rhinos.

Can hippos swim?

They don't swim but walk or glide in water.

How many species of hippos are there?

There are two species: the common and the pygmy hippo.

How fast can rhinos run?

Rhinos can run up to 30-40 mph.

How big do rhinos get?

They can weigh up to 2,500 kg.

Are hippos territorial?

Yes, especially males in water.
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
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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