Pygmy hippopotamus

Secrete a red substance through their skin to protect them from extreme sunlight, creating the myth that they sweat blood

Chris Phutully

The pygmy hippo is the smaller, nocturnal relative of the widely known hippopotamus, and unlike this big cousin, which spends most of its time in the water, pygmy hippos spend more time on land.

It is not tinier, but sadly it is also much rarer than the hippopotamus, found only in the deep forests of West Africa. Unlike hippos living in herds, these loners live on their own or in pairs. They also don’t have webbed feet, valves on the ears and nose and large lungs.

The species is distributed in isolated, fragmented colonies and is under growing pressure from farming, hunting, logging, and any human activities you can imagine! Pygmy hippos have now been declared Endangered, and less than 3,000 individuals are estimated to remain alive in their diminishing native habitat.


Population est.
Côte D’ivoire
Official estimate
Extinct locally
Sierra Leone

Did you know?

  • The entire wild population size is unknown. The population was assessed to be “a few thousand at most” in the 1993 IUCN Status Survey and Action Plan.
  • here had been no pygmy hippopotamus in Cyprus (a historic part of the range) for about 10,000 years, but pygmy hippopotamus bones with cut marks and human hunting equipment were recently unearthed in Limassol’s Aetokremnos, indicating that people may have hunted them to extinction.
  • Although there is no solid proof to support it, there are still reports/rumors of pygmy hippos in the Outamba-Kilimi National Park in northwest Sierra Leone.
  • Pygmy hippo’s ranging patterns, home range size, and territoriality are poorly studied. For the wild populations, no precise information on reproduction, including breeding season, has been published yet.
  • The biggest threat to pygmy hippos is deforestation, as forests within their historical habitat have been steadily cleared for farming and plantations. Mining and other related activities further fragmented forests, making them more accessible to hunters and leading to local extinction.
  • The pygmy hippo is a herbivore with a slow metabolic rate, their stomach is four-chambered, but they are non-ruminant.
  • The pygmy hippo is believed to be more of an intermediate forager and browser, consuming fallen fruit, leaves, herbs, roots, aquatic plants, ferns, and tubers; grass makes up a very small amount of their diet.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No