A hippo is not to be messed with, as many a wild creature can attest. When a pack of boisterous wild dogs called at a Kruger waterhole, the resident hippo made it clear it was in no mood for company.
After an exciting day of game viewing in the Kruger National Park, Anthony and Karen Feinstein bagged a magnificent sighting on their way out of the park. As they drove towards Phabeni Gate, they came across a pack of African wild dogs.
The dogs were heading to Nyamundwa Dam for a drink, but had no idea that their water break would take a hair-raising turn. “The dam is home to a large hippo pod and at this time of the year there were a number of calves amongst them,” Anthony tells Wild.
“The presence of the wild dogs at the dam’s edge unsettled the hippo. One, in particular, became thoroughly incensed.”
Anthony and Karen watched spellbound to see what would happen next. On the one side, a mob of specialised hunters; on the other, one of the bush’s biggest animals.
“After showing the dogs its impressive teeth, the hippo lumbered out of the water and charged the canines.”
Did you know? The hippo baring its teeth is a sign of passive defence. In Beat About the Bush, field guide Trevor Carnaby explains that a hippo’s passive defence consists of various visual signals: “Yawning, porpoising (the animal breaches and dives towards you) and charging with the mouth open.”
“The pack nimbly avoided the charging hippo and it soon retreated to the water,” says Anthony.
Although they are generally placid animals, hippos are considered among the most dangerous wild animals in Africa. They fiercely protect their calves and are very territorial, especially when it comes to defending territory close to the water as this is where they feel safest.
“Unlike most land animals that have lots of escape options and places to flee within their ‘homes’, hippos have a relatively limited area of water as home. As such they are more prone to feeling threatened,” writes Trevor Carnaby.