The pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is a small, semi-aquatic mammal native to the forests and swamps of West Africa. They are closely related to the larger common hippopotamus but have some distinct characteristics.
The pygmy hippopotamus is a unique and fascinating creature, showcasing a range of distinctive physical characteristics. While it shares similarities with its larger cousin, the common hippopotamus, the pygmy hippo has several notable differences.
Size: Pygmy hippos are significantly smaller than common hippos. On average, they measure about 75 to 85 centimeters (30 to 34 inches) in height at the shoulder and weigh between 180 to 275 kilograms (400 to 600 pounds). They are about one-fourth the size of the common hippo.
Build: Unlike the barrel-shaped body of the common hippo, pygmy hippos have a more compact and stocky build. They have short legs and a rounded body, making them well-suited for their semi-aquatic lifestyle.
Skin: Pygmy hippos have thick, hairless skin that appears dark gray or black. This specialized skin helps protect them from sunburn and keeps them moist when they are out of the water.
Head and Mouth: Their head is relatively small and rounded, with eyes positioned high on the sides, allowing them to keep most of their head above water while remaining submerged. Pygmy hippos possess two pairs of sharp incisors, or tusks, which are used for defense and combatting rivals. The lower canines are also enlarged.
Pygmy hippos are primarily found in the forests and swamps of West Africa. They have a limited range, mainly inhabiting Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. These regions provide the perfect combination of water bodies, dense vegetation, and suitable foraging grounds for these semi-aquatic mammals.
Their preferred habitats are riverbanks, swamps, and dense forests near water sources, such as streams or small rivers. These areas provide the pygmy hippos with the necessary resources, including water for swimming, mud wallows for thermoregulation, and a diverse range of vegetation for feeding.
Pygmy hippos are primarily nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the night. They spend their days resting in or near water bodies, where they can keep cool and protect themselves from the sun. As dusk approaches, they emerge from the water to begin their foraging activities.
Being semi-aquatic, pygmy hippos are excellent swimmers. They have streamlined bodies, webbed feet, and nostrils and eyes positioned on the top of their heads, allowing them to stay partially submerged while still being able to see and breathe.
Pygmy hippos are mainly solitary creatures, with males and females coming together only during the mating season. They mark their territory using scent glands and communicate through vocalizations, including grunts, squeals, and whistles.