Pygmy Hippo

(Choeropsis liberiensis)




Facts about this animal

The Pygmy Hippo resembles a small Hippopotamus, but with proportionately longer legs and neck, a smaller head and less prominent eyes, which are rather placed to the side. The head-body length is 157-175 cm in males and 142-150 in females, the shoulder height is 81-100 cm in males and 75-83 in females. Males weigh around 192-273kg, females are a bit lighter. It has a dark coloured skin that appears shiny due to the greasy layer they secrete to protect them when out of water. The lower incisor teeth are very long and used as weapons.


They are reported to be solitary in the wild and prefer to spend much time in swamps and mud wallow as well as in the thick cover of the forest. Wild Pygmy hippos feed on ferns, leaves of young trees, fruits, stems, succulent root stocks, herbs and grass. 


Pairs only meet for mating. Copulation can take place either on land or in the water and is prolonged and noisy. The gestation lasts 187 to 204 days, and the litter size is one, rarely two. The average weight of the Pygmy hippopotamus at birth is 4.2 +/- 6.2 kg. Weaning of the pygmy hippo occurs after about six to eight months in zoological gardens. They start eating solid food at the age of 2 - 4 months. Sexual maturity is reached between 3 - 5 years in captivity.


Pygmy hippos can reach 40 years of age and above.

Did you know?
why pygmy and river hippos often widely open their mouth? That is usually a threat display, by opening their jaws and exhibiting their canines, the hippopotamuses hope to intimidate possible enemies. In zoos this "yawning" is also displayed for begging for food.


Name (Scientific) Choeropsis liberiensis
Name (English) Pygmy Hippo
Name (French) Hippoptame nain
Name (German) Zwergflusspferd
Name (Spanish) Hipopótamo enano, Hipopótamo pigmeo
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Valerie Abbott



Range Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone
Habitat Lowland forests and swamps
Wild population Between 2,000-3,000 (1993) and drecreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 187 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Pygmy Hippo


How this animal should be transported

The use of tranquilizers during transport can reduce the animals' ability to respond to stress, heat and cold. Pygmy hippopotamuses should not be transported during the hot summer months. Whenever possible, they should be showered during transportation. Beware of overheating, never leave the transport crate in the sun!

For air transport, Container Note 71 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations, should be followed.


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Pygmy hippos reproduce very well in zoological gardens and receive a lot of interest from the visitors. A successful breeding program has been set up that helps to ensure their long-term survival. In the wild, numbers are falling as they are still hunted for their meat and are deprived of their habitat. Zoos keeping Pygmy hippos help to raise awareness for their protection and support conservation efforts for this species in the wild as well as in the zoos.