Hippos fight with each other for various reasons but often it involves male competition for the right to mate. Since they are such large animals, to fight one another they must be powerful and are very dangerous to anything smaller. And because hippos are accustomed to living in relatively small (up to fifteen individuals) groups, if one of the frequent African droughts forces large numbers of them into a small area of water, their agression levels will rise greatly. They feel an increased need to defend themselves.
Finally, hippos seem to feel only truly safe underwater, so if they are on land and anything gets between them and the water, they will see it as a possible attack. Many people get injured because the animals are so large, they appear large and sedentary, and we tend to get too close before realizing that they are actually quite fast and agile.
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