Why Are Pygmy Hippos So Small?

Have you ever been to a zoo? If you have, you know that zoos can be enchanting places that provide enjoyment for both children and adults who love nature. In these zoos, you can find animals of various shapes and sizes, including the magnificent creatures of the animal kingdom. Many children particularly enjoy visiting the giraffes, elephants, and hippos.

However, it is important to note that not all hippos are enormous. In fact, when compared to their giant relatives, pygmy hippos may appear quite small. Scientifically known as Choeropsis liberiensis, this species can grow up to only a tenth of the weight of a common hippo.

So, why are pygmy hippos so small? In simple terms, animals, much like humans, come in all sizes. Even species that are closely related can have drastically different sizes. Pygmy hippos are not the only example of this phenomenon! Pygmy seahorses, pygmy possums, and pygmy marmosets are also significantly smaller than their more well-known relatives.

When pygmy hippos are born, they weigh approximately 7.5 to 14 pounds. How big do they get? An adult pygmy hippo can weigh anywhere between 350 and 600 pounds. They typically reach a height of about three feet and a length of five to six feet.

Pygmy hippos are indigenous to the forests of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire. Unfortunately, they are currently considered an endangered species. Spotting one in the wild is extremely rare. Experts believe that habitat loss is the primary cause of their declining population.

What do pygmy hippos eat? They are herbivores who enjoy feasting on leaves, roots, and fruit. When kept in captivity, they are typically fed hay, greens, and protein pellets.

What distinguishes pygmy hippos from common hippos? Apart from their size, the pygmy species spends less time in water. Their feet are also less webbed. Furthermore, there are noticeable differences in their physical characteristics, such as head shape and eye placement. Pygmy hippos are also much less sociable. They prefer to live alone or in pairs, although hippos may live with their mother during the first few years of their lives.

Similar to common hippos, pygmy hippos are nocturnal creatures. They also secrete their own sunscreen, which takes the form of a pink fluid. This fluid prevents the hippos’ skin from becoming excessively dry and protects them from sunburn.

While it may be difficult to spot a pygmy hippo in the wild, you have a great chance of seeing one in a zoo. Zoos provide a better environment for their survival compared to the wild. So, keep an eye out for this small hippo species on your next zoo visit!

Try It Out

Are you eager to continue learning? Find an adult who can assist you with the activities below!

  • Spread awareness about the pygmy hippo by helping others learn about it. Create a poster that summarizes your knowledge about the pygmy hippo, including a picture and five interesting facts.
  • If you’re interested in endangered species, you can explore a map that provides a list of animals endangered in each U.S. state and two territories. Additionally, there is a map available that shows the most endangered species worldwide. Choose one endangered species and compile a list of questions about it. Seek assistance from an adult to conduct online research or visit the local library. Take note of the most fascinating information you discover.
  • If you can’t visit the zoo, you can still enjoy pictures of pygmy hippos. While observing these images, summarize your knowledge about this animal for a friend or family member. Share what you find intriguing about pygmy hippos.

Sources of Information

  • https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/pygmy-hippopotamus (accessed 14 Jan. 2021)
  • http://www.edgeofexistence.org/species/pygmy-hippopotamus/ (accessed 14 Jan. 2021)
  • https://louisvillezoo.org/animalsandplants/pygmy-hippo/ (accessed 14 Jan. 2021)
  • https://www.livescience.com/8438-pygmy-hippo-birth-spotlights-dwarf-animals.html (accessed 14 Jan. 2021)
  • https://learnersdictionary.com/ (accessed 14 Jan. 2021)

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