Hippos are the sort of creatures who can look corpulently docile right until the moment they're chasing you down at 18 miles per hour with ginormous canines on show.

The team at South Africa's Londolozi Game Reserve got a reminder of that infamous temperament recently (from a safe distance) when they encountered two large hippo bulls battling it out for control over a waterhole.

With drought affecting the area, watery real estate is becoming an increasingly contentious commodity. "As space becomes limited for the resident hippo population, tempers fray, and hippo bulls will regularly engage each other in spectacular clashes, some of which continue to the death," writes photographic guide James Tyrrell on the Londolozi blog.

Despite the Mordor-style vocalisations and much baring of teeth, this showdown ended without bloodshed – but until the rains return, battles like this one are likely to repeat themselves.

"One of the bulls in this encounter wisely decided that discretion was the better course of valour, and he made a hasty and ignominious retreat to higher ground," Tyrrell recalls.


Top header image: Andy Price, Flickr