Hippo Bite Force: How Strong Is a Hippos Jaw?

The hippo is one of the most powerful animals on Earth, but these animals are mostly herbivores. As vegetation is their standard diet, you may think that a hippo bite force wouldn’t be much – but you’d be wrong.

Hippos have an impressive 1800 psi bite force which they use for protection. Only second to Crocs, hippos have powerful jaws thanks to flexible muscles, allowing them to open their mouths up to 180 degrees wide. Though herbivores, when agitated, a hippo can cut a croc in half with a single chomp.

With such a powerful jaw for an animal that eats mostly grass, there must be much more to the story. 

So, in this article, we’re going to look at how hippos developed such powerful jaws and how they use them.

Hippo with mouth wide open in Lake Tana, Ethiopia

How Powerful Is a Hippo’s Bite Force?

A hippopotamus can deliver a force of around 1800 psi (12 600 kPa) with its bite, making it one of the mammals with the strongest bites. To demonstrate this biting power better, a hippo could easily cut a 10-foot crocodile in half with one chomp.

Pygmy hippos are only a fourth of the size of common hippos and have weaker bites.

Despite this, their bite force could be comparable to a common hippo’s, but there hasn’t been any scientific research to validate their exact bite forces. 

We can gather that pygmy hippo bites are strong but on a smaller scale when compared to a common Hippo’s.

Hippos Bite Force vs Human Bite Force

The human bite is quite powerful; we average 162psi. Richard Hoffman set the world record for the strongest human bite at a whopping six times more than the average person

He accomplished this impressive feat during a research test measuring using a gnathodynamometer at the College of Dentistry, the University of Florida, back in 1986.

To put it into perspective, hippos can deliver a force of around 1800 Psi (12 600 kPa) with their bite. They are far above comparison to humans, even when we use such an outlier like Richard Hoffman.

In Games of Thrones, you might recall a scene in which warriors crush the skulls of others. Hippos can do the same to a human head with their powerful jaws and a force that is ten times more than human jaws.

There are tons of videos of hippos crushing watermelons with ease, and the density of a watermelon is believed to be close to that of a human skull.

Hippos Devour Whole Watermelons in One Bite

Hippos Bite Force vs Crocodiles Bite Force

The Saltwater Crocodile’s maximum bite force is around 3,700 psi, making the croc seem like an obvious victor if these two ever crossed each other’s paths.

But it’s not quite as clear-cut as that.

Even though they don’t have the stronger bite force, their size and mouths make hippos the more dominant animal. 

They are also territorial animals that can fit a smaller crocodile’s entire body in their mouth and, as we already mentioned, can cut it in half in a single chomp.

Both crocodiles and hippos live in the same waters, but a croc that tries to attack a hippo won’t stand much of a chance.

How Hippos Produce Such a Strong Bite Force

The large, powerful jaw of a hippo is fascinating

Its masseter (a thick, rectangular muscle) and digastric (a muscle located behind the lower jaw) are extended enough to create a biting force that can cause severe damage.

How Is Hippo Bite Force Measured?

It can be difficult to capture the bite force of a hippo as they are highly aggressive animals that will charge without hesitation, posing a threat to anyone measuring their bite force. 

Zoologists use a device at the end of a stick to measure the force a hippo produces when it bites. Although this might sound easy enough, clean readings are hard to come by, and danger is always present. 

Male hippos have not been tested since they exhibit high aggression. Female hippos, who aren’t as aggressive, have been tested, giving us insight into how powerful these animals’ jaws are.

How Wide Can Hippos Open Their Jaws?

One of the most noticeable features a hippo has is its mouth. Their mouth consists of 2 feet wide lips and 36 teeth in the oral cavity. 

The hinging mechanism in a hippo’s jaw allows it to open almost 180 degrees and clamp down with incredible force. 

Unique folding in the jaw muscles allows the hippopotamus to produce wide yawns without tearing any tissue.

Hippopotamus in the water with its mouth wide open

What Do Hippos Use Their Powerful Bite For?

Surprisingly, a herbivore with a diet of grasses, fruits, and other vegetation has such a strong bite force. Do they use this power for grinding down their food? Is this strength necessary for procuring meals?

A hippo’s deadly bite is utilized for protection. With massive teeth and ferocious jaws, they can safeguard themselves against other dangerous animals in Africa, including crocodiles and lions.

Their hostility, forcefulness, and randomness make them one of the most deadly animals on the African continent but also worldwide.

With their immense jaw strength, hippos can attack and kill humans who wander too close to them. It is estimated that around 500 human deaths occur each year from hippopotamus attacks.

Do Hippos Carry Their Babies in Their Mouths?

Although it is uncommon, there have been times when a mother hippo has carried its baby in its mouth while crossing a river.

To protect her infant from other animals, the mother carried her calf across a river in Kenya by clamping its head in her mouth.

The massive creature looked strong enough to crush the baby instantly as she crossed the Talek River in the Masai Mara. But she ultimately succeeded in safeguarding the young hippo and arrived safely on the other side of the river.

Baby Hippo Fiona Gets a Dental Check - Cincinnati Zoo

Final Thoughts On Hippo Bite Force

The hippopotamus has a deadly bite force of 1800 psi, making it one of the most vicious animals on the planet. 

Compared to human or lion bites, hippo bites are much more powerful thanks to their stretchy muscles that enable them to open their mouths 180 degrees wide.

It could be fatal if you’re too close to a hippo, so enjoy them from afar.

FAQs

Which Animal Has The Strongest Bite Force?

Crocodiles have the strongest bite force of any animal measured. The Saltwater and Nile crocodiles have a bite force measuring 3700 psi, although some reports indicate that Nile crocodiles may be able to bite down with an astounding 5000 psi force.

How Much Can Psi Break Bones?

The pressure level needed to snap a human bone differs based on the bone itself and its compactness. Generally speaking, the strongest human bone--the femur--requires 1,700 psi of force before breaking. However, weaker bones, such as the clavicle, require much less effort to break cleanly.

How Strong Is a Lions Bite?

Although there is much debate on the subject, it is estimated that a lion’s bite force averages between 650 and 1000 psi. There are several contributing factors to the biting strength of lions, including age, sex, which teeth are being measured, and the methodology used to calculate the force.

Can a Hippo Bite a Human in Half?

The hippopotamus has a mighty jaw that can quickly kill a human with one bite. They can crush a human skull as easily as they crush a watermelon. They have even been known to bisect 10-foot crocodiles with a single chomp.