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Difference between Hippopotamus and Rhinoceros

Hippopotamus and Rhinoceros both are African mammals. Both are large, heavy and powerful animals. They often look similar and thus people often confuse these two animals. Let us study these animals more closely so that we could easily understand how they differ from each other!


A hippopotamus or hippo is a semi-aquatic African mammal. It is mainly found in rivers and lakes throughout Africa and is characterized by its stout body, thick skin, a large mouth, bulging head and stubby legs. An adult hippo can measure up to 14 feet long, stands 5 feet tall and weighs around 2 tons. It is believed that it can live up to 48 years in the wild.

Hippos belong to the family, Hippopotamidae and prefer to live in shallow lakes, rivers and swamps. Its ears, eyes and nostrils are present on the top of the head so it can stay nearly submerged in water throughout the day. It secretes a natural red-coloured substance, which acts as a sunscreen, to protect their skin from the sun. They have tusk-like teeth, a wide nose and can open up their jaws up to 155 degrees.

They spend more than half of their life in the water and are the second largest land mammal in the world by body-weight after the elephant. They are mostly herbivorous so mostly feed on aquatic plants, short grasses, green shoots etc. Despite their heavy body, they are excellent underwater swimmers and on land, they can run faster than humans, at around 18-28 miles per hour. Hippos are social animals. They form large social groups called rafts.


Rhinoceros are primitive land-dwelling mammals native to Africa and Asia. There are five species of rhino in the world: White Rhino, Black Rhino, Indian Rhino, Sumatran Rhino and Javan Rhino. They are characterized by their large size, short legs, thick skin and one or two horns on the snout, i.e. some species have two horns: a smaller horn above the larger one.

They belong to the family, Rhinocerotidae of class Mammalia. An adult rhino weighs around 1.5 tons, stands 5 feet tall and can measure upto 12 feet long. They have three toes on each foot and are herbivores animals so they usually feed on leaves, shoots, grasses, fruits etc. It is believed that a rhino can live up to 60 years in the wild.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between Hippopotamus and Rhinoceros are as follows:

Hippopotamus Rhinoceros
It is native to Africa, i.e. it is mostly found in Africa. It is native to Africa and Asia.
It belongs to the family, Hippopotamidae of class Mammalia. It belongs to the family, Rhinocerotidae of class Mammalia.
It is a semi-aquatic animal. It is a terrestrial animal.
It has thick, hairless skin without any sweat or sebaceous glands. It has a thick hairy skin.
It does not have horns. It has its characteristic one or two horns.
It is hunted for meat and ivory. It is mostly hunted for horns.
It is smaller than white rhino. Rhino, particularly white rhino, is larger than a hippo.
It may live up to around 50 years in the wild. It may live up to 60 years or more in the wild.
It is the second largest land animal by weight after the elephant. It is the second largest land animal by height after the elephant.
It has four toes in each foot. It has three toes in each foot.
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