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Pygmy Hippopotamus

Choeropsis liberiensis


Late in the afternoon on Monday, October 5, Cleopatra, a pygmy hippopotamus, gave birth to a 13-pound male calf at Franklin Park Zoo. The birth was a joyous moment marking the culmination of years of work, careful planning and dedication by the animal care and veterinary teams. The tiny male calf is the first pygmy hippo born at Zoo New England. >>Full story

About the Pygmy Hippopotamus


Geographic Range:


Class: Mammalia 
Order: Cetartiodactyla 
Family: Hippopotamidae 
Genus: Choeropsis
Species: liberiensis

The pygmy hippo is a stout animal with a relatively small and rounded head and thick blackish skin. Like the larger Nile hippo, it excretes reddish droplets that soften and protect its skin. This creature is solitary and secretive in the wild. It's not vicious, but can be dangerous when disturbed. The pygmy hippo will attempt to intimidate potential enemies by opening its jaws and baring its canine teeth.

Pygmy Hippo Facts

Compared to the Nile hippopotamus, the pygmy hippo is somewhat more than half its size, and its limbs are proportionally longer. Its head is relatively small and rounded; the eyes are not prominent and are set to the side. The thick, naked skin is uniformly blackish and somewhat lighter below. Like the Nile hippo, pygmy hippos exude reddish-colored droplets which soften and protect the skin.

Height: about 2.5 feet
Length: about 5 feet from head to tail
Weight: 400 to 500 pounds

In the wild they eat a diet of tender shoots, leaves, fallen fruit, grasses and vegetation.

Pygmy hippos haven't shown a set breeding season in captivity, and their behavior in the wild is difficult to determine. A single offspring is born after a 190 to 210 day gestation period. Calves are weaned after six to eight months and are sexually mature at 4 to 5 years of age.

Pygmy hippos are solitary and have home ranges although they aren't territorial. A male wanders over a home range that overlaps with several female ranges and possibly other male ranges. They're not aggressive but can be dangerous when surprised or disturbed. Their foraging on land and in the water creates pathways and canals that other animals use to get through dense underbrush. These pathways are marked with dung that helps fertilize plants.

Pygmy hippos are found on swamp edges and bordering dense thickets and by the water in rain forest regions of West Africa, including the countries of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Scientists believe them to be in Nigeria.

Median Life Expectancy:
26 years

The main threats to pygmy hippos are habitat loss and hunting. Their habitat is becoming fragmented and developed. Although they're not major targets of the bushmeat trade, opportunistic hunters that stumble upon them will kill them for their meat.