This morning, in the Deadspin staff chatroom, we found ourselves debating whether a hippopotamus or a rhinoceros would win in a head-to-head battle. Since the question wasn't settled there [even after, like, six hours—ed], Albert Burneko and Greg Howard have decided to air the question in a public forum.
Yes, it's true that hippos look like big, docile burritos. Yes, it's true that they spend most of their time lounging in muddy water holes, occasionally surfacing to spray poop around like lawn sprinklers. Yes, it's true that, despite this, they're still kind of adorable, with their sweet cow eyes and big squishy faces and hilarious little baby legs. This is all a ruse. They want you to think they are the silly, dumpy mud-cows of Africa. Their secret: Hippos are goddamn killing machines.
According to this Daily Mail article featuring harrowing photographs of a grown man sprinting for his life before the wrath of an enraged hippopotamus roughly the size of a nuclear submarine, "Hippo jaws are capable of biting a 10-foot crocodile in two." I won't link to it because it's sad and awful, but there's a YouTube video out there in which a hippopotamus bites the fucking jaw off of an adult lion. Have you ever seen a rhinoceros bite the jaw off of anything? Have you ever seen a rhinoceros bite a crocodile in half? No, you have not.
Listen. I am not about to assume a tactical fighting stance in the face of an angry rhinoceros. I mean no disrespect to these dumb, plate-clad relics; a rhino would beat the absolute hell out of me. But, hippopotami are legendarily ornery, aggressive beasts; rhinos just look that way. The Zulu warriors of southern Africa used to march to war chanting about the bravery and fighting prowess of the hippopotamus. And let me tell you: They knew what they were talking about.
What I am saying is that the hippopotamus would yawn at the rhinoceros, the rhinoceros would take one look at a mouth large enough to cram a goddamn barbershop quartet into it and powerful enough to section a friggin' crocodile, and the rhinoceros would decide that maybe this watering hole isn't so great after all. A rhino might be dumb, but it's not that dumb.
Look, hippos can scrap a little bit. No one's gonna sit here and say hippos can't scrap. But compared to rhinos, hippos are bullshit.
Let's all agree that, yes, when science and time intersect, awesome, unexplainable things can happen, and so yes, hippos have a sweet little evolutionary quirk that allows them to both hop and bite things very hard when partially submerged. Cool. Good.
When we talk about fighting in these hypothetical African jungle streets, though, we're talking about context. We're talking about circumstance. Let's all agree that if a rhino were to engage a hippo, it would do so on land. Yes? Yes. That's settled.
Let's call a spade a spade: hippos are fat as fuck. Just look.
Like, have some pride, you know?
Rhinos, however, all seem to be born already having done a dime upstate. Look at the traps on this dude.
Why are we still pretending like this is a debate?
Next, let's talk about natural defenses. Hippos appear to be made of discarded football bladders. That's skin that can only come from years of gentle living. That's blogger skin. That skin doesn't know struggle. I'm sure you'll make noises about how that seemingly ain't-shit hide is simultaneously supple and rugged or whatever, but rhinos are walking around in a suit of ashy-ass leathery armor. You know who else wears body armor? 50 Cent. And 50 Cent has seen some shit.
You would think that maybe because of the rhino's suit of ashy-ass leathery armor, hulking traps, and extra weight, a hippo would be faster and more agile, and you'd be wrong as fuck and stupid. Hippos top out at about 18 miles per hour. You know what happened to that grown man running for his life from a hippo? He got away. He's fine.
Rhinos, however, run almost twice as fast as hippos. Google stories for "grown man running away from rhino." You won't find any stories, and the reason you won't find any stories is because it doesn't happen
Now let's talk about the most obvious mismatch. Hippos have big teeth. They can make things happen with those teeth. Rhinos have motherfucking swords attached to their heads. The point here is that everyone bites, but attaching a sword to your head is outlawed, because a man with a sword attached to his head can topple governments.
When we talk about fighting in these hypothetical African jungle streets, though, we're talking about paths to victory. We're talking about options. We're talking about natural ability. My esteemed colleague talked about one time when a hippo bit the jaw off a lion. I'll leave you with this.
Top photo: Associated Press; body photos: Getty Images