Sounds & Calls

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

The Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) [often referred to a simply ‘hippo’] is large semiaquatic mammal found in sub-Saharan Africa. 

What does a hippo sound like? Hippopotamus are noisy creatures and can make a wonderful range of rubbery grunts, groans, squeals, trumpeting bellows and wheezy breathing sounds. Hippo calls can be very loud, their sounds have been measured at 115 decibels and can be heard from several kilometres away. Hippos often call in response to one another, especially at night when they leave the water to graze. These calls apparently help identify themselves to other hippopotamus and, according to one study, hippos are able to tell from the sounds the difference between their own pod members and strangers.

Hippos also make a range of strange roars and growls when fighting. These fighting vocalizations sound quite different to their more typical bellowing calls. When I first heard them I thought I was hearing a big cat growling rather than a hippo!

Listen to some examples of hippo calls and other sounds below.

Listen to Hippo Sounds

The audio in the video below features a range of hippo sounds including the typical rubbery grunts, explosive snorts and some more delicate breathing sounds from hippos closer to the microphones. Recorded in Kafue National Park, Zambia.


Hippo – Fighting calls

 M3EW-1613 This sample features the unusual growls and roars of a fighting hippo. Recorded in Kafue National Park, Zambia.


Hippo – Variation of interaction calls

 SDMKH386 A further example of strange roars, honks and wheezes of a hippo which I presume was fighting or interacting with a rival hippo. Recorded in Manyeleti Game Reserve, South Africa.


Hippo – Breathing sounds while resting

 M6EM-954 Some soft breathing sounds recorded close to a resting hippo at night. To capture these sounds, the microphones were left overnight in the branch of tree above a favourite snoozing spot for hippos. This recording rig harvested a nice range of intimate hippo sounds over the course of that night. Recorded in Kafue National Park, Zambia.