Pygmy hippopotamus underwater. By Tatiana Grozetskaya |
Pygmy hippopotamus underwater. By Tatiana Grozetskaya |

About pygmy hippopotamus.

It is one of only two living species of Hippopotamidae, the other one being the common hippopotamus (its much larger relative).

Natural predators of the pigmy hippopotamus are leopards, but pythons and crocodiles can also pose a threat to calves.

There are two subspecies: “liberensis” (Liberia, Sierra leone and Ivory Coast) and “heslopi” (Nigeria). The second one is believed to be extinct. Differences between them are based in the size of the skull, although these estimations were drawn from dead specimens, hunted years ago.

The skin of these animals is sensitive to the sun, so they spend most of their time in the water. Moreover, their sweat is pink (it contains two pigmented acids that color their grey skin), and it becomes solid and brown when these acids become dry.

The pink color of their sweat made the first colonists believe that these animals sweated blood. This alkaline pigmented sweat is actually the perfect sunscreen. It is also waterproof and an antiseptic.

The name “hippopotamus” comes from ancient Greek and it means “river horse”.

These animals have strong muscular valves that close when they submerge into the water to protect their nostrils and ears.

They are nocturnal. They spend the day hidden in rivers, taking cover from the sun, and they come out at night to feed.

Pygmy hippopotamus are solitary animals, living alone or in small family groups.

Hippopotamus can open their mouths very wide. In the case of their older brothers, up to 120 degrees. For pygmy hippopotamus, it’s a little less. They open their mouths like this as a warning sign to scare off their enemies.

Strange as it may seem, whales are the closest living relatives of hippopotamus.

This animal is endangered due to habitat loss: the forests they inhabit are often cleared to make space for farmland and plantations. Other factors include poaching, natural predators and wars.

Baby Pygmy hippopotamus. By Pongmanat Tasiri
Baby Pygmy hippopotamus. By Pongmanat Tasiri
Pygmy HippopotamusEndangered
Choeropsis liberiensis150–175 cm (4.92–5.74 ft)
Hippopotamidae180–275 kg (397–606 lb)
Artiodactyla30-55 years (in captivity)
Mammalia190-210 days
An estimated of 2,000-3,000 individualsIt is a herbivore. It feeds on ferns, plants and fruits.
Forests and swamps of West Africa. They always live in areas close to the water, as it is a semi-aquatic animal.Forests and swamps of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.


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