• Question: if a mammoth had a fight with a hippo who would win

    Asked by susanboyleface to Chris, Dave, David, Jack on 26 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: David Freeborn

      David Freeborn answered on 26 Jun 2013:

      This would be a real clash of the titans.

      A hippo is highly aggressive and territorial, with one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom (3 times the strength of a lion’s bite, almost double the strength of a tiger’s).

      Mammoths were massive. A large male mammoth of some species could weigh up to 13 tonnes- that’s about 3 times the weight of a modern Asian elephant- even though they were about the same height. The heaviest hippopotamus ever recorded was only 4.5 tonnes by comparison.
      So the mammoth would have a lot of charging power. It would take a tough hippo to be able to deal with that.

      In the end, there’s just too much mammoth for a hippo to bite through. The mammoth has size and strength and the ability to stomp on the hippo. The hippo might have an advantage if it could drag the mammoth into water, but how on earth do you drag a 13 tonne mammoth anywhere?

      Basically, the mammoth is going to win. It would stomp all over the poor hippo.

    • Photo: Jack Miller

      Jack Miller answered on 26 Jun 2013:

      Great question!

      Hippos are actually very nasty animals — if you walk between a mother and her children, it’s entirely likely you’ll end up bitten in half, dying in a dirty, crocodile-infested river. As mammoths are unfortunately extinct, it’s much harder to say what their behaviour was like, but I imagine similar to that of an elephant — namely they’ll make a bit of trouble if provoked, in heat, or competing for a mate’s attention, but are otherwise quite good natured.

      Let’s assume that, via some mystical means, you have a mammoth and a hippo intent on attacking each other. A mammoth is larger, almost certainly heavier (though that’s hard to estimate), and would therefore have a certain amount of mechanical advantage over the comparatively lighter hippo. However, we also have to consider the environment this challenge takes place in — the frozen tundra of Mammoth fame is a far cry from the karoo semi-desert in which hippos roam. Both animals have a lot of adaptations geared to help them survive in their environment — a hippo would probably freeze to death in the snow, whereas a mammoth would likely expire in sub-Saharan Africa.

      Let’s assume that the battle takes place in a temperature between both of these extremes. I think that it’d be a great fight to watch (if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t really) — two ungainly, large animals trying to move around each other with some degree of dexterity. It’s likely that a hippo could severely damage a mammoth’s legs, but probably not that much else. The mammoth might be able to injure the hippo’s tough, thick skin with its tusks, but, again, I’m not so certain it’d manage to do that effectively — a hippo is likely to be too low down, and fast (believe it or not…) to get caught by a stomping mammoth.

      All in all: a tough one! I’m sure someone in Hollywood would love to provide you with an answer to this in slightly more lurid detail…

      — Jack

    • Photo: Dave Farmer

      Dave Farmer answered on 26 Jun 2013:

      Dear susanboyleface,

      Weight wins fights.

      Mammoth at 13 tonnes vs Hippo at 4.5 tonnes. There’s only one winner!

      My money’s on the mammoth.

      How many hippos would it take to beat a mammoth? I’m going to say 3 or more. I reckon if the mammoth can concentrate on one hippo then it wins the fight quickly, so you need enough hippos so that they do damage quick enough so that that mammoth can’t focus on any one hippo.

      What do you other guys reckon?