Hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius,
& Pygmy Hippopotamus, Choeropsis liberiensis

2001, revised 2011

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Describer (Date): Linnaeus, 1758
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Hippopotamidae
Genus: Hippopotamus
Species: Hippopotamus amphibius
Species: Choeropsis liberiensis
2 other species from Madagascar now extinct


Head/Body Length:
Common Hippo up to 5 m (15 ft) in length
shoulder height: 5 ft
Pygmy Hippo 1.5-1.75 (3,307-3,858 lb)
Shoulder Height:
Common Hippo 1.4 m (4.6 ft);
Pygmy Hippo 75-100 cm (30-39.4 in)
Common Hippo Canines up to 50 cm (20 in);
2 or 3 pairs of incisors
Pygmy Hippo Smaller but very sharp canines
Common Hippo 35 cm (13.8 in); laterally flattened
Pygmy Hippo 16 cm (6.3 in)
Common Hippo Male 1.6-3.2 metric tonnes
Female 1.4 metric tonnes
Pygmy Hippo 180-275 kg (397-605 lb)
Skin: Common Hippo Slaty-brown skin,
scantily covered with short, fine hairs;
secretes reddish substance
Pygmy Hippo Entirely black


Common Hippo Southern Africa (sub-Saharan)
Pygmy Hippo Mainly Liberia, also
Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast
Common Hippo Permanent water
Pygmy Hippo Forests
IUCN Status:
Common Hippo: VU (vulnerable)
Pygmy Hippo: Endangered
Common Hippo Appendix II
Pygmy Hippo Appendix II
Population in Wild:
Common Hippo 125,000-148,000
(2008 IUCN estimate)
Pygmy Hippo 2,000 -3,000 estimated in 1993
ISIS captive population


Locomotion: Walk or pole along underwater;
Can gallop 30 km/hr (19 mi/hr) on land
Activity Cycle:
Common Hippo grazes 5-6 hrs/night on land
Rests days in water 18-19 hrs
Pygmy Hippo rests in water/ day;
browses in forest /night
Social Groups:
Common Hippo highly gregarious in water
but solitary forager
Pygmy Hippo Much more solitary
Communication: Complex bellows and grunts
both in and out of water
Common Hippo Short grasses, may eat
water plants when grass is scarce
Pygmy Hippo Less grass, more browse
including roots and fruits.
Predators: Baby hippos protected by mothers
from lions, hyenas, crocodiles.


Sexual Maturity:
Common Hippo F 7-12 yrs; M 6-10 yrs.
Common Hippo 8 months (average 2 yrs.
between pregnancies)
Pygmy Hippo 7 months
Litter Size: 1; twins very rare
Birth weight:
Common Hippo 25-55 kg (55-121 lb)
Pygmy Hippo 5.73 kg (12.7 lb)
Age at Weaning: Common Hippo 8 months
Lifespan: About 40 yrs in the wild.
Record captive lifespan:
61 yrs Common Hippo,
42 yrs Pygmy Hippo


Feature Facts: Ancient Egyptians in
3500 B.C. kept hippos, elephants and baboons
at a private zoo in the city of Hierakonpolis.
Society Press: First hippo exhibited in a Pacific
coast zoo: "Puddles," born at the Brookfield Zoo
on 7/8/35, came to San Diego 8/19/36. Currently
on exhibit at San Diego Zoo are Funani, her
calf Kiboko (born 6/2001) and the male Jabba.

© 2001 San Diego Zoo Global. Last update February 2011. 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 library@sandiegozoo.org.

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