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Pygmy Hippo

Updated on February 25, 2016

Scientific Name: Choeropsis liberiensis


 Ranging high up there as some of the largest animals around you will find the one ton Pygmy Hippo. They are smaller though than the three ton Common Hippos though. Most people have seen this particular species as they are commonly found in zoos all over the place. They draw huge crowds due to the stories about them and they way that they look. When you see one you will immediately be able to identify it as the unique animal it is in our world.


 The small elements of the Pygmy Hippo don’t always seem like they fit well externally with the rest of them. I am talking about the tiny tail and the tiny ears. However, everything comes together for this animal to be fast on land and easily able to move around in the water. That is mainly done with the strength that is in their very thick and short legs.

They have very little hair on their bodies which is why they need to be in the water during the hot desert sun. They also excrete a reddish pigment that is a natural sun block. This is why you will find stories out there about the Pygmy Hippos bleeding in the water throughout the Egyptian and Greek writings.

You may not even know that a Pygmy Hippo is in a body of water though. They can have those huge bodies submerged in the water and only their eyes, ears, and the nostrils are out there. The dark gray coloring though blends in very well to the swampy surroundings. They do have to come to the surface for air often so having the nostrils on top of the head is a great way that their anatomy works to their advantage.


 There are many holes when it comes to evidence we have of evolution. What we do know is that they are quite a bit larger than they used to be. There have been fossil remains of several species that prove this. However, many other aspects of the body are the same so it leads us to believe that the size is what helped them to survive. Perhaps it prevented them from being prey as before.

Pygmy Hippo Video


 Don’t be fooled for a moment though about the appearance of the Hippo though. They are very intelligent and very fast. They are also instinctive when it comes to killing anything that they feel may be going to create a problem for it. Many humans have lost their lives by being in the same waters as the Pygmy Hippo. These animals will also go to battle with crocodiles, alligators, and each other.

Even though they live in herds, they don’t protect each other and they don’t interact often. They are territorial in the water and don’t like to share any given space they have there. The females are isolated from the males, and the dominant male will only come to them when he is ready for mating.

There are quite a few types of vocalization that these animals use. They intensify when their basic needs are threatened. The dominant male also uses these vocalizations to entice the females to mate with him when they are in estrus.

Habitat and Distribution

 Today the distribution location for the Pygmy Hippo is along Western Africa. They like areas where there is the cover of the forest. Not only does this help them to have shade in the heat, but it offers them the rich vegetation that they need to survive on. They also like water that is considered to be swampy.

It can be very deep which they seem to be comfortable in. You will often see the young Pygmy Hippos on the backs of their mothers so that it is easier for them to get to the surface for air. That is often an indicator that the water they are moving around in is quite deep.

Chances are you have seen the Pygmy Hippo at a zoo. They seem to be very content in such a habitat. Of course every effort is taken to make sure they have both land and water to be in as they need to. Since most zoos are only open during the zoo though you will seldom see them on land.

Diet and Feeding habits

A variety of plants and leaves are what the Pygmy Hippo feeds upon. They can spend up to five hours a night eating. In that time they can consume 100 pounds of vegetation. During certain times of the year they will also find lots of type of fruit that they enjoy as well.

The young Pygmy Hippos feed from their mother’s body for about a year. If there is lots of food she will often wean about 8 months of age. The milk her body makes is full of vitamins and nutrients that allow her offspring to grow quickly. It is vital that she finds lots of food though to be able to make that amount of milk. Her young will start to eat plan life around two months of age in small amounts.


Only the dominant male in the herd is going to mate with the females. If the bachelor males want to mate they will have to beat him or venture out to find his own herd. The females go through estrus periodically and that opens up a window of about 48 hours when successful conception can occur.

For the most part, the mating is going to take place during the time of year when there is lots of rain. However, experts agree that mating can occur for the Pygmy Hippo any time of the year. When there is more food and lots of water to reside in though they seem to mate more freely.

We still have a great deal of questions out there about mating rituals and the birthing process. Since these events occur in the water though it is really hard to get all of the pieces of the puzzle into place. The mother will give birth from 190 to 210 days after the mating takes place. She will do all she can to protect her young for the first few years of life.

Pygmy Hippo Video


 There are only a couple of predators out there that naturally cause problems for the Pygmy Hippo. This includes the crocodile, alligator, lion, tiger, and hyena. They tend to try to take down the young though as they are at least 60 pounds at birth. While they young usually do stay close to their mother, they may go too far on their own and then it is too late for her to save them from such predators.

It is the actions of humans though that really make life difficult for the Pygmy Hippo. Illegal hunting of them for food, to clear out the forests from their presence, to make money from their ivory teeth, and for the fun of it all continue at high levels. While there are laws against it, they are extremely hard to enforce in the Western Africa area. There are some conservation efforts in place though to try to reduce the problems humans present for them.


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  • profile image

    courtney 4 years ago

    great invo it helped me a lot

  • laurentmikhail profile image

    Laurent Mikhail 5 years ago from Miami, FL

    Sorry, we apologize for the wrong fact. It was corrected

  • profile image

    Hemal 5 years ago

    I work with two pygmy hippos in south africa, and we are worried about them in terms of procreation. What source are you quoting when you say that after birth the female won't mate for several years?

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Wonderful hub and inforamtive.