In the mythology of the Lambas people of Zambia, there is a creature called the Ichisonga. It is a herbivore, and very rhinoceros-like in appearance.

Upon hearing a hippopotamus, it allegedly sneaks up on the hippo and then stabs it to death with its horn. It has a similar hatred of elephants and will stand by an elephant carcass in spite until rots away.

Imagine that the Ichisonga was a real creature, a species of rhinoceros inhabiting Africa. Why would it - a herbivore - be so aggressive towards hippos and elephants? There are cases of herbivores exhibiting somewhat predatory behaviour, like Cape buffaloes, which actively seek out, stalk and kill lion cubs and even injured humans, but why specifically hippos and elephants?

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    $\begingroup$ mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/12/…. Background reading: aquatic African cryptids that all hate hippos. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 28, 2019 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ Rhinos just happen to hate everyone and everything. $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2019 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ "like Cape buffaloes, which actively seek out, stalk and kill [PREDATORS]" , and THAT is the thing to consider. If a few rare occasions is enough, go by Agrajag's answer below. If you want it to be a consistent phenomenon, you need some environmental pressure to kill other animals. Maybe food is REALLY scarce, or maybe elephants have a habit of killing Ichisonga cubs $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Apr 29, 2019 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know where you heard of the ichisonga, but the only source I could locate online – Doke, C. M. (1931) The Lambas of Northern Rhodesia. George G. Harrap and Company Ltd., London. – mentions that the ichisonga is motivated by jealousy. The full text of the book is online here and cited here. Thus the answer by Agrajag (giving envy as the reason) best fits the actual superstition. $\endgroup$
    – user64555
    Apr 29, 2019 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @user10915156 That was where I first read about it too. I got that part, but I decided to leave it out as a consistent species-wide behaviour would somehow have to help pass on genes. $\endgroup$
    – SealBoi
    Apr 29, 2019 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


A tale of envy.


The Ishisonga remembers swimming as a cub: it loved swimming, it would dive beneath the water and feed on the lush and delicious water-weed, reveling in the cool splashy games with the hippo children; swimming was what it dreamt about, what made life worthwhile.

Then time passed: it grew, its head heavy with horn, it became more and more difficult to keep it above the water; it could not dive for delicacies and return to the surface with such ease. Eventually it could not dive, could not swim. Its dreams were broken. Ichisonga was cast onto the dry hot and dusty land it hated so.

At times Ichisonga would take a drink by the rivers and lakes, there would be the hippos - friends of youth, grown now. Their honking laughter would fill the air for miles around, taunting and humiliating Ichisonga. Bitter tears would be all the water Ichisonga would enjoy. Instead of the sweet taste of water-weed, Ichisonga vowed to enjoy the sweet taste of revenge for this betrayal.

Since the hippo children were so lucky as not to grow horns, horns would be their undoing, so Ichisonga took the only weapon it had and ended their laughter, one by one.


Ichisonga wandered the lands in sorrow, envy and anger, feeding on tasteless dry grasses; thorny bushes would scratch and stab at its lips any time it tried for a succulent leaf - there were none of the sweet fruit Ichisonga remembered as a child and longed for the taste of.

Ichisonga would see sweet fruit, out of reach in the high trees; the monkeys would drop the seeds with a trace of the sweet smell - so tantalising, but Ichisonga could not reach. The elephants would snake their supple trunks with ease to twist the lower fruit away from the tree, then to enjoy the sweet taste. Ichisonga was envious and even sadder.

Ichisonga would wander the savanna, occasionaly stumbling upon the carcass of a hunted elephant, one caught by the big cats or a tribe, then would gaze longingly at the remains, imagining the snakey trunk grasping sweet fruit, imagining the taste, wishing there were a way for it to belong to Ichisonga, but there was no way, only more sadness, envy and anger for Ichisonga - and dry dusty grass.

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    $\begingroup$ Damn, now I want to pat Ichigonsa on the back and find him a nice kiddy pool and a rubber duck... +1 $\endgroup$
    – Nyakouai
    Apr 30, 2019 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ @psmears Thanks for the edit, everyone round here has better spelling than I it seems. $\endgroup$ Apr 30, 2019 at 14:01

Imagine that the Ichisonga was a real creature, a species of rhinoceros inhabiting Africa.

Rhinos already behave like this and they are herbivores. They'll attack most things. Of course they lose against elephants but that doesn't stop them trying. Why? Nobody knows!

Rhino versus elephant. https://youtu.be/4sRlnNllql0?t=155

Rhino against just about everything else https://youtu.be/xL6CUdw84jI


Rhino vs Hippo (the Rhino's horn has been removed to prevent poaching so it's not a fair fight) https://youtu.be/1Fog6jeeAZk?t=92


It could be that ichisongas shared their territories with hippos and elephants for thousands of years and probably due to increasing competition, these ichisongas must have developed a territorial instinct. Probably these ichisongas waited around till the elephants and hippos rotted away to make sure that they were dead and that they won't be back to bother the ichisonga(elephants and hippos are quite the tanks).The hippos are already quite territorial and hence are quite dangerous the any ichisongas in that territory and elephants could probably decimate the ichisongas' territory. To combat this, it might have developed such territorial spite towards the hippos and elephants.

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    $\begingroup$ They can actually see elephants and hippos as males of their own species and considering their size, they are threatened and attack immediately. $\endgroup$
    – Sulthan
    Apr 29, 2019 at 9:03

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