Hippo Hunting

Hippo hunting is quite a challenge. Though you may see piles of hippo lying inertly around on a river bank, they are extremely sharp-eyed and will make a run for the water if they feel in the least bit threatened.

"Hippos are mysterious. They do things that defy explanation. For instance, they sprawl all over each other when taking afternoon naps. A herd of ten average-sized adult hippos weighs twenty tons. Yet down in the bottom of that pile of snoozing hippos are the babies, resting securely and comfortably. They always emerge unsquashed." Alexander Lake

Hippo Trophy Minimums

Hippopotamus amphibius (Hippopotamus)
RW Minimum RW Record RW Measurement Method SCI Minimum SCI Record SCI Measurement Method
25" 641/2" 5 50" 883/16" 12

Where To Hunt Hippo

You can hunt a hippo and freely import hippo trophies as a CITES II animal from Benin, the Caprivi region of Namibia, South Africa, the Selous and other southern concessions of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

  • In Uganda, hippo is huntable only if it is officially declared as a PAC animal by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which is a rare occurance.
  • All exports of hippo trophy products from Mozambique remain suspended by CITES, USF&W and the EU.
  • In Cameroon you can hunt a hippo but there is CITES export quota of 10 hippo hunting trophies. The EU complies with this quota but, since their latest 2015 'stricter domestic measures', member states will be required to issue an import permit for hippo, if they see fit.
  • In the Central African Republic (CAR), hippo are a protected species and as such, not huntable there.

Hippo Hunting Prices

  • In Benin, the trophy fee for a hippo is around 2000 Euros.
  • In Cameroon, you can opt to hunt a hippo from the Group A savanna species and the trophy fee will be between 1200 Euros and 3500 Euros.
  • Despite the suspension of the hippo trophy import from Mozambique, you can still hunt a hippo there for a non-refundable licence fee of between US$300 and US$1300. The additional trophy fee is between US$3500 and US$5000.
  • In Tanzania, a hippo is available to hunt on a 21 day licence. The Government trophy fee for a hippo is US$1500 but after Community Development/anti-poaching fees, the trophy fee will be between US$1500 (outfitters that don't add to the Government trophy fees) and US$3300.
  • In Zimbabwe, the trophy fee for a hippo is between US$3150 and a hefty US$6500.
  • In South Africa, hippos have a trophy fee of between US$7000 and US$9990 with a tag fee of US$500.
  • In Namibia the trophy fee for a hippo is between US$3900 and US$7500 + a conservation fee for the Caprivi areas. You can get several hippo with croc/buffalo etc combo package hunts of varying lengths.

Hippo Hunting Methods

  • If you're very lucky, you can catch them on land, but not very often.
  • Most hippo are shot in the water and then recovered.
  • Taking a hippo is as much a test of marksmanship as it is a test of hunting skills.
  • If you do shoot them in the water, it's a good idea to pay some attention as to feasibility of the recovery of the carcass beforehand.
  • If you do shoot a hippo in the water and you get the shot right, the carcass will immediately sink. Then as the gases in the stomach expand, the carcass will float to the surface, usually taking between 20-40 minutes.
  • Although not part of the Big Five, it should be noted that these animals are extremely dangerous and despite appearances, very fast indeed. Extreme caution should be taken when close to them.
  • Some hunters are determined to hunt a hippo on land, in which case, building a blind is usually necessary after determining the place where hippos routinely like to lie when they come out of water. Alternatively stake out a hippo path that is used as their route to and from the water to graze at night. There maybe lots of hippo paths adjacent to water which may be unused so check first.
  • Some hunters may want to build in extra thrills on their hippo hunt by lamping crop-raiding hippos at night. Read more in African Hunter Magazine's article by Ganyana
Hippo Hunting On Luangwa River, Zambia

A Good Hippo Trophy

  • Size of lower incisor teeth is the deciding factor as far as record books are concerned but there won't often be the opportunity to see their teeth.
  • Sitting and watching from cover you may see the teeth when bull hippos 'yawn' at each other, but trying to figure out which is which after they submerge and re-emerge in a different place is difficult. It is hard enough for some hunters to identify a bull hippo in the water, let alone which has the biggest teeth.

Hippo Hunting Shot Placement

  • On land, if the animal is standing at right angles to you, you'll find the heart by running your crosshairs up the back of the foreleg, and about a third of the way up the body.
  • On land, if he's standing directly away from you, aim at the root of the tail but if he's facing you, it gets a bit more difficult. The rough spot is at the top of the 'vee' that is seen on his forehead, but the angle of the head will dictate the exact spot.
  • In the water, you will mostly only see the head so a brain shot is all you have - either from the side or from the front.
  • A good rule to remember with all mammals is that the frontal brain aiming point can found by drawing a line between the eye and the opposite ear and the eye and the opposite ear. Where those lines cross, is where you'll find the brain. From the side, aim for the ear hole or slightly in front of it.
  • Large calibres and solid bullets should be considered mandatory for this species.
  • African Hunter Shot Placement for Hippo

Hippo Bull Vital Statistics

  • Shoulder Height: 59" / 1.5m
  • Weight: 3306lbs / 1500kg

Hippo Habitat and Requirements

  • Hippos live near rivers and lakes.
  • Prefers enough water to submerge completely.
  • This species is usually a nocturnal feeder and comes out of the water to graze and will travel long distances to find the best grazing.

Hippo Social Structure

  • Hippos live in family units called pods.
  • The dominant male will defend his territory ferociously and dominance disputes are common.
  • Shoot a hippo in a river and it's very common for very soon afterwards, every pod up and down the river to be fighting to re-establish their own separate hierarchies.

Hippo Gestation Period

  • Mating takes place in water and a single calf is born about 5 months later.

Hippo Gender Identification

  • Not as easy as you might think, especially when they are bobbing around in the water. Be particularly cautious when hunting in countries that will penalize the shooting of female animals.
  • The bulls are generally bigger than the females and usually have considerably more scarring due to dominance fights.
  • Look also for ears that might have been bitten off during those same fights for dominance.
  • Bulls tend to have bigger heads and stronger necks in comparison to their body size.
  • The easiest way though is to look at the eyes of the animals - male hippos have hooded eyes and the females look like they are wearing pink framed spectacles and have slightly popping out eyes.
  • It's very common for the 'educated' bulls to sneak to the back of the pod if they get concerned or suspicious.
Click image to enlarge
Hippo Bull
Hippo Bull
Hippo Cow
Hippo Cow

Hippo Trophy Permits (2015)

As part of their 'stricter domestic measures', both the EU and Australia now require a CITES import permit for CITES II hippopotamus hunting trophies.

Hippo Trophy Permits
BotswanaCITES IINO Hippo hunting
CameroonCITES II - 10 Hippo Trophy QuotaCITES II Export PermitAnnex B + CITES Import PermitCITES II Export Permit + Import Permit
CARCITES IINO Hippo hunting
EthiopiaCITES II - 6 Hippo Trophy QuotaCITES II Export PermitAnnex B + Import PermitCITES II Export Permit + Import Permit
MozambiqueCITES IINo ImportNo ImportNo Import
NamibiaCITES IICITES II Export PermitAnnex B + Import PermitCITES II Export Permit + Import Permit
South AfricaCITES IICITES II Export PermitAnnex B + Import PermitCITES II Export Permit + Import Permit
TanzaniaCITES IICITES II Export PermitAnnex B + Import PermitCITES II Export Permit + Import Permit
ZambiaCITES IICITES II Import PermitAnnex B + Import PermitCITES II Export Permit + Import Permit
ZimbabweCITES IICITES II Import PermitAnnex B + CITES Import PermitCITES II Export Permit + Import Permit

Hippo Trophy Taxidermy

Most hunters do not have room for a full hippo mount but they generally retain the teeth or skull with teeth and other parts like the feet. Some hunters have shoulder mounts or hippo pedestal mounts made.

Click images to enlarge
Hippo Full Mount Hippo Pesestal Mount Hippo Pesestal Mount Hippo Shoulder Mount Hippo Teeth Shield Mount Hippo Teeth & Skull Mount Hippo Foot Mount Hippo Foot Bookends

Hippo Hunting Recommended Reading

The Hippo Poacher

The Hippo Poacher by Oliver Walker (1967) is the biography of Tom Dunn, 'the most notorious hippo poacher in Zululand', son of John Dunn, King Cetewayo's white Prime Minister and a Zulu princess. Tom's colourful adventures take place during a vanished era, before the white man's sugar-cane and timber came to dominate the free-hanging bush. Oliver Walker's sympathetic narrative recreates the green Zululand of footpath and kraal and of the abundant big game that enabled Tom Dunn, a true nomad, to wander at will.

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