Hippo vs. Elephant: Giants Face Off

By Brian Handwerk

Back off, buddy! That’s no welcoming smile, but a hippopotamus leaving absolutely no doubt that an African elephant is an unwanted visitor to its home turf.

Photograph by Nicole Cambre/Rex Features

“There is an island on the middle of the Chobe River to which this elephant had crossed. The hippo was not happy about it and was apparently defending its territory,” said photographer Nicole Cambre, a 43-year-old lawyer from Brussels who captured this scene while visiting Botswana in August.

Cambre watched, and photographed, the partially submerged hippopotamus swim toward the elephant as the latter stood impassively near the shoreline. When the hippo emerged onto the island, it showed off massive teeth and jaws in a bellicose display meant to intimidate the trespassing pachyderm. (Related: “‘Unusual’ Pictures: Lions vs. Hippo.”)

Face to face with the largest land animal on Earth, which had lowered its head for possible battle, the hippo showed no signs of backing down—but it eventually reconsidered when reinforcements arrived, Cambre reported. “When more elephants crossed the river to the island, the hippo backed off and went back into the river.” (Related: “Rare Pictures: Crocodile Attacks Elephant.”)

And while the hippo didn’t pose a lethal threat to the giant ellie, the big mammals can back up such belligerence with most other species—including humans. In fact, hippos may be the most dangerous animal to encounter in all of Africa—unless you’re the size of a bull elephant.

  • stacy girl

    move over buddy……lol



  • Bells

    I think the hippo would come of second best. Hippos sure can open their mouths wide.

  • Rubí Cahuich

    Is really amazing, the animal kingdom is wild and the same time is beautiful. The hippo is small and the elephant is big, but the intelligent of this animal is very big.

  • Ahmed Essemlalie

    It’s that happen only in animal life or as well with human been


    Nice photographic interest with daring

  • Diana

    Great story and pictures!! This time Goliath won though….

  • Ken Albertsen

    I love inter-species interaction like this. Thanks for sharing.

  • azandh

    it is amaizing teritorial fight of hippo……nice photo shot keep it up

  • subhankar

    Very nice wild story. Thanks to Mr Nicole Cambre.

  • maria guadalupe dominguez nieto

    es admirable el encuentro de dos de las especies mas grandes de africa

  • josé josafá dos santos

    I like national geographic

  • Thomas Blyth

    Hippo definitely. Hippos rule!



  • Juan José Ibañez

    Admirable fotografía. Conozco el mundo por estos audaces señores.

  • lil’dee

    the picture about the hippo and the elephant is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • mor


  • Nathaniel

    A lion and hyena wat happens?

  • Gary K. Van Horn

    It;s bad news for the hyena if it’s an adult male. Pretty even for female lions and hyenas.

  • some one who likes national geographic

    where is the video???????????

  • Pablo Gonzalez

    Ahhh…I wanted a fight!

  • Raymond Mkichwe

    Survival of the fittest, jungle law.

  • Salsassin

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