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Angry, Angry Hippos

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Not even other hippos are safe.
"I got dropped into Zambia on the Luangwa River to paddle downstream and look at the wildlife. However, I ran into some really angry hippos. In some countries of Africa, hippos are known to cause more human fatalities than any other species, even more so than Nile Crocodiles! And by crikey, they get grumpy! They pushed me right outta the river! They've got huge straight tusks, and when they get angry, they CHARGE straight at ya! I was quite fearful and respectful of them, so I went around 'em. I left my canoe in the end!"
Steve Irwin, describing his near-fatal encounter with hippos

Hippopotamuses in fiction tend to be portrayed in two ways. On the one hand, they're often depicted as friendly, lovable animals, thanks to their chubby, round appearance that makes them look cute. On the other hand—and that's where this trope comes in—they're just as likely to be seen as Xenophobic Herbivores and something completely terrifying.

This is a lot closer to reality when it comes to hippo behavior. Hippos are notoriously aggressive and territorial and can do a lot of damage with their teeth and jaws. Even big predators like lions and crocodiles generally steer clear of them. They are also incredibly fast for their large sizes and small legs. They're considered some of the most dangerous wild mammals in their native range as well as the most dangerous animal (except for disease-spreading mosquitoes, not to mention evil humans) on the entire African continent. Hippos portrayed this way in fiction will often have a Hair-Trigger Temper and be willing to attack anyone who so much as looks at them funny. If they're on the side of the good guys, expect lots of Mooks getting crushed and trampled. If they're bad guys, or just a natural hazard, expect the heroes to face the same situation. A lot of depictions, however, exaggerate the violent reputation of hippos to an extreme—sometimes even depicting them as flesh-eaters. In reality, hippos are herbivores, although they will occasionally scavenge.note  When they aren't chasing down the hapless protagonists, they'll often be shown fighting among themselves, baring their massive teeth.

Simply put, when they aren't being depicted as cute and friendly, hippos have a tendency to be The Brute and Super-Persistent Predator, with a frequent side of Dumb Muscle.

Compare Cruel Elephant, Rhino Rampage, and Brutish Bulls for other large herbivorous mammals portrayed as violent and dangerous. See also Never Smile at a Crocodile for another aquatic creature that often appears as a danger in jungle settings, and Wily Walrus for another large, dangerous, blubbery animal. Contrast Huggy, Huggy Hippos, even if both can go hand-in-hand.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Girls und Panzer; the History Club uses a hippo as the emblem for their team, and their StuG III is the most well-armed and dangerous of the tanks on Oarai's roster and does much of the heavy lifting in the early rounds of the tournament.
  • In a few episodes of Kimba the White Lion, some hippos appear in antagonistic roles.
  • One Piece:
    • A minor zombie in the Thriller Bark Arc is an anthropomorphic hippopotamus named Hippo Gentleman. He tries to kill Usopp at one point but gets defeated.
    • One of the villains in the Wano Arc is Dobon, the Vice Warden of Kaido's prison who has eaten a faulty Devil Fruit that fused his body to an enormous hippo head.
    • According to Word of God, Marshall D. Teach, one of the main antagonists of the series, resembles a hippopotamus.

    Asian Animation 
  • The Big Bad of Rimba Racer, Mr. King, is a hippo. Uniquely he is rather calculated and manipulative, in contrast to the more violent depictions of hippos. Flashbacks also show he is (or was at least) a Well-Intentioned Extremist, but that doesn't detract from his heinous actions.

    Comic Books 
  • Blacksad: In the volume A Silent Hell, Blacksad runs into the thuggish hippo Ted Leeman, a corrupt private detective. While he looks fat and stupid, he is a very tough opponent who gives Blacksad a vicious beatdown.
  • Blake and Mortimer: In The Gondwana Shrine, Mortimer and his companions dive into an African lake and are attacked by a pod of hippopotamuses. Soon after, Olrik and his henchmen follow them and are attacked as well. It's pointed out that the hippos are particularly dangerous because they are protecting their calves.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones: In issue #7, Indy and Marian are traveling up a crocodile infested river in the Congo when their raft is wrecked by an angry hippo, dumping them in the water with the crocodiles. In attempting to escape from the crocodiles, they wind up trapped in quicksand.
  • Luke Cage: In Cage (2016), one of the human/animal hybrids created by Professor Soos who fights Luke Cage in a tournament is an anthropomorphic hippo called Mister Hippopotamus.
  • Spider-Man: Lesser-known villain The Hippo is an actual hippo who was mutated into a sapient, anthropomorphic form. Subverted in that while he uses his natural super strength to commit crimes, he's actually quite friendly, and is often seen either being outclassed by other villains or doing ordinary non-evil things.

    Fan Works 
  • Absolute Trust: In Chapter 16, it's mentioned that Hahn went after an arctic hippo alone to try reclaiming his honor as a mighty warrior. Not only was he killed, they only found half of his corpse.

    Films — Animation 
  • Gloria from the Madagascar series is a friendly hippo most of the time, but in the first film, she brutally wipes the floor with a bunch of fossa attacking her and her friends, rubbing them into the ground with her butt.
  • At the start of The Prince of Egypt, after nearly being eaten by a crocodile on his way down the Nile, baby Moses' basket is then nearly wrecked by a bunch of hippos emerging from the water out of nowhere.
  • Two minor examples in Zootopia:
    • Implied when Judy is working in parking enforcement and ticketing vehicles. At one point, a hippo child tells Judy "My mommy says she wishes you were dead," implying that the mother found out that she got a ticket, and did not take it well.
    • Also, one of the Junior Ranger Scouts who bullied Nick during his childhood was a young hippopotamus.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Congo, the expedition is attacked by a group of very aggressive hippopotamuses at one point.
  • In Indecent Proposal — bear with us! — during a charity auction, Billy Connolly describes a Hippo as "two tons of angry cellulite!"
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: The first enemies encountered by the heroes after they arrive in a video game are a bunch of monstrous hippos. One of them promptly devours Bethany's avatar in a rather brutal fashion.
    • That hippo appears again when the heroes return in the game in the sequel Jumanji: The Next Level. This time it tries to eat Milo's avatar, but Martha manages to save him.
  • Discussed in Justice League (2017). In the opening scene, a group of kids interview Superman and one of them asks him if he has ever fought a hippo, claiming they're the deadliest animals on the planet.
  • The Legend of Tarzan: To rescue a slave from Leon Rom and his crooks, Jane jumps into a river full of hippopotamuses. One of the beasts immediately charges at her, and she barely manages to reach the coast. The ferocity of the hippos was Foreshadowed in an earlier scene when Jane told a group of children that they are the most dangerous animals in Africa.
  • The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines: The heroes are traveling down river when their small boats disturb a herd of hippos. The hippos began to thrash about until the local guide throws chocolate bars into the river, quelling the hippos' wrath.

  • The Mummy Monster Game: In book 1, during the challenge for the final piece of Osiris's mummy, the first monster that tries to kill the player (mainly by trying to swamp the boat with waves) is the smooth back and rear legs of an enormous hippopotamus.
  • River of Teeth: In this book, the United States government introduced hippopotamuses to the Louisiana marshlands with them becoming a dangerous nuisance. These hippos are ravenous and even have been known to feast on humans.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Grimm downplays this. Nick and the heroes take on a cicada-like Wesen who takes an overweight woman to his sleeping spot to be his nourishment for his seven-year slumber. During the battle with him, the woman turns out to be a hippo-like Wesen who ends the battle by changing into her Wesen form and biting the villain's head off. She then shifts back into her human guise and nonchalantly laments how hard it is to find a date.
  • Downplayed in Juken Sentai Gekiranger vs. Boukenger; the Hippopotamus-themed monster Baka is goofy and dim-witted but at the same time a powerful opponent who can shrug off a lot of the heroes attacks.
  • Walking with Beasts: Though referred to as pig relatives (as was the consensus in the early 2000s) and having some suid-like traits, the entelodonts from "Land of Giants", with their huge size, gray skin, vicious tempers, and penchant for settling disputes via painful jaw-wrestling, also bring to mind fully terrestrial hippos. Late research would go on to confirm that hippos (not pigs) are one of the entelodonts' closest living relatives

  • Discussed in the song "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" when the singer's mother thinks a hippo would eat the singer up.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In Egyptian Mythology:
    • The red hippo is a symbol of Set, the god of violence and disorder. One of the episodes of Set's fights with Horus involves them both turning into hippos and having a bloody battle.
    • Ammit, also known as the Devourer, is a creature in the Egyptian afterlife comprised of the three most deadly animals: head of a crocodile, front half of a lion and a hippos backside.
    • While Tawaret, a goddess symbolically depicted as a hippo, is mainly an amiable deity, mythologists have noted that the meaning of her name ("Great One") suggests that the Egyptians saw her as a dangerous deity that required appeasement, much like how fairies are sometimes euphemistically referred to as "The Fair Folk".
  • The Book of Job in The Bible mentions Behemoth, a powerful and virtually invincible creature that it is said only God can defeat. The description of Behemoth (it eats grass, lives in a river, and has strong bones) suggests that it is based on a hippo.

    Puppet Shows 

    Video Games 
  • Age of Mythology: the Pharaohs of Egyptian civilization players who choose Set as main god can quickly summon animals with Divine Favor to send in combat, including hippos. They can be killed to harvest food as well. Also, sending a single gatherer to hunt wild hippos for food is not recommended (the gatherer will get killed quickly), the player is better off sending a whole squad of them for this, or making sure that a Divine Favor upgrade to kill wild animals in one shot has been completed.
  • Amagon: The boss of the third level is the Hippo Demon who appears in two phases. His first form only shows his eyes, while the second phase exposes his head. He attacks the player with water projectiles.
  • Hippopotamuses serve as hostile animals in Assassin's Creed Origins, and they are pretty nasty if not outright worse than lions or crocodiles.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: One of the Sixth Generation Animatronics is a murderous hippopotamus called Mr. Hippo. However, the guy really isn't as bad as the others - though he does wish to kill you, he always apologizes, as he feels that he doesn't want the other animatronics to do so. Plus, it's hard to get mad at someone who has such interesting monologues.
  • In the Hitman 2 mission "The Three-Headed Serpent", Rico has a pet hippo he uses to kill his enemies. It can even be used by 47 to kill Rico, by having him be eaten by his pet.
  • Horizon Forbidden West: The Widemaw is a hippo-like robot that sucks up vegetation in its enormous mouth to convert into fertilizer. If disturbed, it aggressively charges Aloy and uses a devastating bite attack, spits boulders at her from long range, or tries to crush her under its enormous backside.
  • Hippos frequently appear as hazards in many Jumanji video games.
  • Monster Hunter:
    • The Slagtoths introduced in Monster Hunter Portable 3rd are odd saurian creatures that resemble hippos crossed with frogs and slugs, and are water-dwelling herbivores that will instantly aggro and attack any hunters who get too close by rearing up and trying to crush them under their weight. They aren't dangerous in the slightest, but can be annoying if you fight a monster in their territory since they will happily waddle up and try to hit you in true "annoying lesser monster" fashion.
    • In terms of proper hippo monsters, Monster Hunter: Rise introduces Tetranadon, an amphibian that looks like the bastard child of a kappa and a hippo that fights like a sumo wrestler, and is incredibly foul-tempered and hostile.
  • Pharaoh: Hippos are the dangerous animal for the Humid climate (equivalent to hyenas and crocodiles in other climates). Fortunately, they mostly stay confined to marshes, which only becomes a problem if you intend to harvest reeds for papyrus (the best way to deal with them is with towers or warships). The "Side Show" cheat code gives them tutus à la Fantasia and makes them dance on their hind legs, but this doesn't make them any less dangerous.
  • Pokémon: Like hippos in Real Life, the Ground-type Hippowdon has a very bad temper and is quite aggressive. Averted with its pre-evolution Hippopotas for the most part, although just like Hippowdon, Hippopotas will attack the player unprovoked in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
  • One of the competitors in the boxing game Punch-Out!! is King Hippo, a real behemoth of a man who has hippopotamus as his Animal Motif. While not the meanest of the bunch, he's still a very tough opponent to fight.
  • Sly Cooper: While Murray is often a Nice Guy with a strong loyalty to his friends, he is also a bit of a Blood Knight who gets a thrill out of combat, and if you get on his bad side by threatening his friends or calling him weak, he will not hold back and will show you exactly why he is considered the heavy hitter of the team.
  • World of Warcraft: Riverbeasts were first introduced in Warlords of Draenor and come in two variants, with the Azerothian type being closest in appearance to an Earth hippo. Their aggressiveness varies, but many of the adults are by default hostile to players. An Ohn'ahran centaur mentions that riverbeasts are responsible for more centaur deaths than any other beast in the plains.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: One of the Imp henchmen of recurring villain Nefir is an anthropomorphic hippopotamus.
  • Not an actual hippo, but one of the professional Earthbending wrestlers in Avatar: The Last Airbender has the stage name "The Big Bad Hippo". True to form, he's a huge muscular man who isn't very intelligent, and his teeth even resemble those of a hippo. He ends up getting thrashed by Toph, though.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: One of the villains of Season 3 is the hippopotamus mascot called Hyper-Potamus. Downplayed though, as she's quite friendly despite being evil. Honey Lemon also has a fear of hippos, most likely because of this trope.
  • Hank Hippopopalous from BoJack Horseman is a sociopathic and sexist hippo who is terrible to his secretaries.
  • Captain N: The Game Master: One of the major villains is King Hippo, who acts as The Brute for Mother Brain. Unlike the video game, he has blue/grey skin in the show, making him look even more like an anthropomorphized hippopotamus.
  • Some hippopotamuses appear in many episodes of Jumanji. Like most other animals, they are portrayed as aggressive and dangerous creatures that regularly threaten the heroes. In some episodes, the heroes are also confronted by robotic hippos created by Professor Ibsen.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Kim the Invincible is a villainous warrior hippopotamus who travels the world (explaining why there's a hippo in China), challenging and defeating the world's mightiest warriors and then adding a tattoo of them onto his body. He's a Mighty Glacier warrior with nearly impenetrable hide, using a chain to strangle his opponents.
  • Downplayed in The Legend of Tarzan. Tarzan and his friends are attacked by a group of enraged hippos in the episode "Tarzan and the Poisoned River", but it was only because they were driven mad after drinking some polluted water.
  • The Lion Guard: While Beshte is normally a very cheerful and friendly fellow, he is also the Guard's Strongest and a fearsome fighter who doesn't hesitate in using his strength against animals who deserve it, often sending enemies flying with a charge or a headbutt.
  • The Hippo appears in an episode of Marvel's Spider-Man in which he is part of a bank robber duo with Panda-Mania.
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey: Latayana Hippo is the leader of "The Pretties", and she's known for being temperamental and dangerous. When she yells, her voice gains a demonic filter to emphasize this.
  • The Octonauts: In the episode "The Hippos", the titular hippos are very aggressive, as noted by Shellington. When Shellington accidentally wakes up one of them, all of them are quick to give chase and none of them are willing to listen to reason. Several of them also chase Kwazii when he provides a distraction.
  • Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Hypno-Potamus is a recurring villain in the show. He's a former stage magician who was mutated with his pet hippopotamus, and now uses his magic tricks and his newfound physical strength to commit crimes.
  • Gladys the Hippo Lady from Rocko's Modern Life has a Hair-Trigger Temper and often beats up Rocko for accidentally invading her personal space.
  • Homer Simpson accidentally angers a hippopotamus in The Simpsons episode "Simpson Safari", prompting it to violently beat his guide and charge at him. Thankfully, he manages to escape from it through the river, because, as everyone knows, hippos hate water.
  • VeggieTales: A hippo is the antagonist of the Silly Songs with Larry segment "Song of the Cebu". It threatens to attack the canoe a boy and his three cebu are riding, and only the Mute Cebu notices and tries to warn them. Too bad we'll never know if they escaped the hippo or not.
  • The Wild Thornberrys: Eliza's visiting cousin, Tyler, wants to get close enough to some hippos to get take a picture, only to informed by Nigel that hippos are among the most dangerous animals in the world due to being very territorial, and are not lazy animals who just eat grass like Tyler thought. Said hippos nearly kill the kids later when trying to escape their river until Eliza convinces them to attack some crocodiles instead.