How Much Does a Hippopotamus Cost?

Last Updated on February 11, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Owning an exotic pet like a hippopotamus may seem like an exciting prospect, but the costs involved are enormous. From the initial purchase price to the expenses for food, housing, vet care, and legal permits, hippos require a massive financial investment and long-term commitment.

This article will break down the many facets of hippopotamus ownership costs to illustrate why these unusual pets come with a hefty price tag.

How Much Does a Hippopotamus Cost?

The first major expenditure for a prospective hippo owner is the initial purchase price. Since hippos are rare, exotic animals, obtaining one through legal channels is extremely expensive.

Prices typically start around $30,000 but can easily exceed $100,000 depending on the source. Some owners bypass dealers entirely and import hippo calves directly from Africa, which still costs over $20,000 when permit fees and transport are factored in.

Even “discount” hippos with health issues or older calves that are weaned too early come with a minimum $10,000 price tag. Simply acquiring a hippo is clearly a huge financial barrier.

Wild Habitants writes that a common hippopotamus can be acquired for approximately $100,000. This is the initial cost of buying the animal itself.

Animalia Facts reports that a common hippo costs about $100,000 and needs about 20 acres of land with a watering hole. The cost of feeding a hippopotamus can range up to around $19,000 per year.

The total cost of finding and owning a hippo successfully for a year could be about $300,000 to $350,000.

On top of the base purchase price, prospective owners must budget for permit applications, insurance, veterinary exams, quarantine costs, and transport. Legal permitting alone can cost thousands depending on jurisdiction.

And don’t forget the giant crate for transport and powerful truck needed to move a 2+ ton animal! All things considered, hippo buyers should prepare for an upfront cost of $60,000 to $100,000 before even bringing their new pet home.

Owning a Hippo: Ongoing Costs Add Up

Once purchased, a hippo’s care and feeding becomes an owner’s never-ending financial responsibility. Some major recurring hippopotamus costs include:

Feeding a Hungry Hippo Is Pricey

A full-grown hippopotamus eats around 100 pounds of grass, hay, and produce daily. With bulk pricing, this equates to approximately $15 per day or $5,500 per year in food costs.

For comparison, the average dog eats less than $500 of food annually! Since hippos are messy, wasteful eaters, waste can double actual food quantities needed. Owners should budget $10,000 to $12,000 annually just to satisfy their pet’s voracious appetite.

Medical Care Is a Major Consideration

Hippopotamus Drinking WaterRoutine veterinary care for a hippo averages $2,500 annually, assuming no major issues arise. But exotic vets are a must to treat common hippo ailments like bloat, skin infections, respiratory illness, and parasites.

Emergency medical bills can easily exceed $10,000 for life-threatening conditions, which are more likely to occur with irresponsible captive management. Owners should save $20,000+ annually for comprehensive vet care.

Habitat Construction Is Complex and Costly

Hippos thrive in warm freshwater lakes and rivers, so replicating their natural habitat in captivity is no small feat. Constructing a acre-sized outdoor pool and enclosure costs upwards of $250,000.

Maintenance like cleaning, structural repairs, water filtration, and heating averages $20,000+ yearly. Indoor sleeping and grooming areas require heavy-duty construction too. Owners can conservatively expect to spend $500,000+ creating and maintaining a suitable hippo habitat.

Insurance and Legality Demand Deep Pockets

Exotic animal insurance helps offset unforeseen veterinary costs but carries a high premium, often $5,000 annually for just $10,000 coverage. Securing annual permits and licenses can run $500 alone per jurisdiction.

Construction must follow strict codes, and many municipalities outright ban owning hippos. Navigating legal obstacles and maintaining compliance is an ongoing headache. Legal hippo owners need ample funds and patience.

Additional Hippo Ownership Considerations

Beyond the basics of purchase, food, vet care, and shelter, hippo owners should factor in a few additional recurring costs:

Nutritional Supplementation

Hippos have complex mineral needs that captive diets don’t always fulfill. Custom vitamin supplements will run $3,000+ annually but are vital for long-term health.

You might also like our articles about the cost of an elephant, a rhino, or a giraffe.

Conservation Donations

Some zoos and owners donate to wild hippo conservation to offset criticism over captive animals. Though optional, $5,000 annual donations help hippo habitats globally.

Education Initiatives

Educational displays with information about hippos can foster understanding and counter the perception of hippos as exotic “pets.” Developing these for the public costs owners $2,000+ yearly.

Final Words

Caring for a multi-ton exotic animal like a hippopotamus is a massive, lifelong commitment requiring deep pockets. For all but the wealthiest enthusiasts, owning a pet hippo is likely an unrealistic dream due to their staggering purchase price and care costs.

Those set on hippo ownership must prepared for regular five-figure expenditures to ensure their pet’s welfare.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hippos safe to pet?

No, hippos should never be pet or touched, even by owners. Despite their docile appearance, hippos are extremely territorial and will bite if feeling threatened. Even friendly hippos can inflict serious injury just playing. It’s safer to appreciate hippos from a distance.

How long do hippos live?

In captivity, hippos live approximately 40-50 years with proper care. Lifespans over 55 years have been recorded in zoos. In the wild, hippos typically live 30-40 years. Their long lifespans mean owning a hippo is a lifelong commitment.

Are hippos rare?

Outside of Africa, hippos are quite rare. They are primarily found in zoos and on private ranches or with owners who procure special exotic animal permits.

It is estimated there are between 50-150 captive hippos in the U.S. Globally, wild hippo populations are vulnerable and declining due to habitat loss, making them a threatened species.

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