This is the "Summary" page of the "Hippopatamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) & Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choerpsis liberiensis) Fact Sheet, 2011" guide.
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Hippopatamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) & Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choerpsis liberiensis) Fact Sheet, 2011   Tags: africa, conservation, fact sheet, hippo, hippopotamus, mammal, river, san diego zoo, sdzg, tusk, wildlife  

Last Updated: Dec 28, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Hippopatamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) & Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choerpsis liberiensis) Fact Sheet, 2011


Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All Rights Reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodacyla

Family: Hippopotamidae

Genus: Hippopotamus

Species: Hippopotamus amphibius - common hippopotamus

Genus: Choeropsis

Species: Choeropsis liberiensis - pygmy hippopotamus

Body Weight

Common hippo: Males: Up to 1,475 kg (3,253 lb); Females: 1,360 kg (2998 lbs
Pygmy hippo: about a sixth the weight of common hippo

Body Length

Common hippo: males: 300-505 cm (9.8-16.6 ft); females: 290-430 cm (9.5-14 ft)
Pygmy hippo: males: 157 cm (62 in); females: Up to 150 cm (59 in)

Tail Length

Common hippo: 28-35 cm (11-14 in)
Pygmy hippo: 16 cm (6.3 in)

Common hippo: purple-gray or slate brown
Pygmy hippo: greenish-black above, grayish-white below

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Common hippo: sub-Saharan Africa
Pygmy hippo: mainly in Liberia

Common hippo: estuaries and rivers; reservoirs
Pygmy hippo: forests

IUCN Status
Common hippo: Vulnerable
Pygmy hippo: Endangered

CITES Appendix
Common hippo: Appendix II (trade must be regulated)
Pygmy hippo: Appendix I (no trade allowed)

Population in Wild
Common hippo: 125,000-148,000
Pygmy hippo: Unknown; possibly as few as 2,000-3,000 remaining

Walk on river bottoms and on land; do not really swim. Charge with surprising speed.

Activity Cycle
Nocturnal. Common hippo pends day submerged in water. Pygmy hipps rests near water, but also on dry ground.

Social Groups
Gregarious. Typical herd size of common hippo is 10-15 individuals, but ranges from 2-50. Pygmy hippo is less gregarious, being solitary or found in pairs.

Grasses and other browse vegetation near rivers.

Humans. Nile crocodiles, hyenas, and lions, when young.

Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Sexual Maturity*
Males: 6-13 years
Females: 7-15 years
*May be much younger in captivity

Common hippo: 227-240 days
Pygmy hippo: 188 days

Litter Size
One; twins rare

Interbirth Interval
If enough resources, able to give birth every year.

Birth Weight
Common Hippo: 25-55 kg (55-121 lb)
Pygmy Hippos: 5.73 kg (12.7 lb)

Age at Weaning
6-8 months (both species)

In the wild: 35-50 years
In captivity: Up to about 60 years for common hippo; 40-45 years for pygmy hippo

Feature Facts

  • Hippopotamus essentially translates to the Greek for "river horse"
  • Whales are the hippo's closest living relatives
  • Ancient Egyptians exhibited hippos in a private zoo 3500 years ago.
  • Special glands on a hippo's skin secretes mucous that protects them from sunburn, infection, and water loss
  • Low metabolic rate allows them to survive weeks without food
  • Jaws open wide; males use jaw-gaping and large tusks to compete for water-based territories
  • Mother-calf bond is extremely close
  • Hippos mostly vocalize underwater; keen sense of smell
  • Major threats to survival include habitat loss and hunting

About This Fact Sheet

© 2011 San Diego Zoo Global.

How to cite: Hippopatamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) & Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choerpsis liberiensis) Fact Sheet, 2011. c2011. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(Note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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