Pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis)

Pygmy Hippopotamus

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In our indoor pools at the semi-aquatic mammal house or outside in our paddocks, where you can see us from Savannah Tracks.

Fast facts

Status Endangered

Size Head and body length: 1.5-1.75m. Tail length: 16cm

Weight 180-275kg

Gestation 6- 6½ months

Young 1

Life span 20-30 years in the wild, up to 30- 40 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Pygmy hippos will mostly feed in the late afternoon and through the night in the wild, when it is cooler. These animals are herbivores, and will only feed on vegetation - their main diet includes aquatic plants, short grass, algae, leafy bushes and fallen fruits.

Where do I live?

Pygmy hippos prefer habitats such as lowland forests and tropical rainforests that have sources of water (such as rivers) and swampy areas. They can be found in West Africa, in particular Liberia, Ivory Coast and areas in Sierra Leone and Guinea.


Pygmy hippos can breed from 4-5 years old - females will give birth to a single calf on land, typically once every two years. The calf is hidden from threats within thick vegetation for at least their first 3 weeks. Within its first hour of life, the calf will have taken its first steps and have its first feed. It will feed from the mother for around 6 months, and will start to eat solid food from 3 months old. They will usually leave their mother at about 2 years old.


The main predators of pygmy hippos are leopards and humans.

To protect themselves from threats, these animals have two sharp canine teeth on their lower jaw, that has no part in feeding, but are used as weapons to ward off attackers or to assert dominance with other pygmy hippos.


Deforestation and logging has are the main threats to the pygmy hippo. This has caused a rapid loss of their habitat, which has led to the drastic decline in wild population numbers. In addition, hunting is also proving to be a real problem these animals are facing.

Pygmy hippos are protected by law in the countries that they are within; however the enforcement of these laws can be limited due to lack of resources and any civil unrest.

Did you know?

The name Hippopotamus comes from the ancient Greek meaning "river horse".

The ancestors of the hippopotamus family once lived across Europe and Asia. Fossils of this family group have even been found in the River Thames!

Pygmy hippos were first described scientifically in the 1840’s, and much of their behaviour in the wild is still being discovered.

Their skin is covered in special pores that secrete something called ‘blood sweat’- a thick, oily white or pinkish substance which acts as a skin lubricant and sun screen. This protects their skin when both in and out of the water.

The pygmy hippo will spend more time on land compared to the common hippo. However they will spend much of their time in swamps and are still very well adapted to life in the water.


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I have taken our children here before and they love it

Marwell itself is very accommodating, the staff are always friendly and happy to help, the changing facilities are very good. The children loved the big play parks, doing the Easter egg hunt and meeting the Easter bunny.KIDS, Shepherds Down, 30th April 2015