Hippo Sibling Rivalry

Incessant biting draws blood on the banks of the Olifants river.
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By Anna Faherty
In the Kruger National Park

What looked like a rather severe case of hippo sibling rivalry was spotted on a recent trial of the forthcoming Olifants Backpacking Trail. After a splashy tousle in the water between the mother and another, smaller, hippo, the aggressor managed to oust the small calf from the Olifants river.

It then attacked the youngster, biting it repeatedly for several minutes before returning to the water. The mother, and observers, looked on, fearing that they had witnessed a vicious and bloody murder, before the baby got unsteadily to its feet and stumbled back into the river.

After a worrying dip where it ended tail up out of the water, the injured calf appeared to recover and quickly rejoined its mother. Territorial hippo bulls are known to attack and even kill calves which they might view as rivals.

Mothers have also been observed biting calves to berate them for wandering too far away when out of the water. From the size of the hippos involved, this instance looked like the case of a jealous sibling trying to establish dominance over its new baby brother or sister.

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