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Hippopotamuses: Hippopotamidae

Pygmy Hippopotamus (hexaprotodon Liberiensis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Measures 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) in length and weighs 350 to 600 pounds (159 to 272 kilograms). Though similar to the larger common hippo in body shape, the pygmy's head is proportionately smaller. Also, its eyes, ears, and nostrils do not sit as high on the head. Its legs and neck are longer, and the skin is closer to black than brown.

Geographic range: Found in Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.

Habitat: Pygmy hippos are forest animals that spend the day in or near water and roam the land at night to forage. They also live along swamp borders.

Pygmy hippopotamus calves stay with their mothers for about three years. (Tom Brakefield/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Feeds on a diet of fruits, ferns, and grasses.

Behavior and reproduction: These hippos are usually found in pairs, as they are not as social as common hippos. They also are not as aggressive.

Females give birth either on land or in water after a pregnancy lasting 190 to 210 days. Each delivery results in one calf that weighs an average of 12.6 pounds (5.7 kilograms). Unlike the common hippo calves, pygmy calves will not follow their mothers on food expeditions, but stay in hiding and wait to be nursed two or three times a day. By the age of five months, they weigh ten times more than they did at birth. These calves live with their mothers until the age of three years.

Pygmy hippopotamuses and people: Pygmy hippos are not a threat to humans but have been known to injure hunters and damage crops.

Conservation status: Listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN due to hunting and habitat loss from logging. Several national parks in the Ivory Coast and Guinea have been established to give protection to the pygmy hippo. ∎



Eltringham, S. Keith. The Hippos: Natural History and Conservation. London: Academic Press, 1999.

Leach, Michael, and Frank Sloan, eds. Hippopotamus: Habitats, Life Cycles, Food Chains, Threats. Milwaukee: Raintree Publishers, 2000.

Perry, Phyllis J. Jean. Freshwater Giants: Hippopotamuses, River Dolphins and Manatees. New York: Scholastic Library Publishing, 1999.

Web sites:

"Hippopotamus." ExZooberance. http://www.exzooberance.com/virtual%20zoo/they%20walk/hippopotamus/hippopotamus.htm (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Hippopotamus." Nature-Wildlife. http://www.nature-wildlife.com/hipptxt.htm (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Hippopotamus." Young People's Trust for the Environment. http://www.yptenc.org.uk/docs/factsheets/animal_facts/hippopotamus.html (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Pygmy Hippopotamus." Wonderclub. http://wonderclub.com/Wildlife/mammals/pygmyhippopotamus.htm (accessed on May 22, 2004).

Shefferly, N. "Hippopotamus amphibius." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Hippopotamus_amphibius.html (accessed on May 22, 2004).

"Wildlives: African Animals: Hippopotamus." African Wildlife Foundation. http://www.awf.org/wildlives/140 (accessed on May 22, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsHippopotamuses: Hippopotamidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Hippopotamuses And People, Common Hippopotamus (hippopotamus Amphibius): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS